The focus of the Orchard Park Village Board's meeting Monday night turned to the design of the proposed office building that looks likely to replace the landmark Orchard Downs -- whether it was on the agenda or not.
The board had scheduled a public comment session on developers Peter Krog and David Hart's plans to replace the 180-year-old structure, but the focus was to be on its size. In the Village of Orchard Park, a special-use permit is required for any buildings over 3,500 square feet.
An official public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.
The developers have requested a special-use permit for a building with 9,979 square feet of lot coverage, including a second-floor overhang that would go over part of the parking area. The actual ground-level "footprint" of the proposed building would be 7,698 square feet as opposed to the current 7,403.
"I'm not concerned with the footprint, I'm concerned with the head print," said Yasabel Newton Gibson, turning the focus toward the proposed building's appearance.
The current plan for the new building calls for the long exterior along North Buffalo Street to feature four different brick facades, making it look like four smaller buildings.
"I was disgusted with what I saw," said Robert Bindig, who identified himself as a graphic designer. "It was made up to look like several different buildings. No way do they belong together.
"If you do have to tear down the building, and I don't see why you have to, why can't you make it match our library, our municipal building and look like a colonial building?"
The developers have already received demolition approval for the Downs, but it is dependent on receiving several other permits and variances.
But for every person speaking for saving the old restaurant, there was at least one in favor of the plan for the new building.
Fran Hogenkamp, a candidate for Village Board in the upcoming March elections, said he had assembled a group of Orchard Park residents two years ago to look at the Downs with thoughts of restoring it. He said a restaurant was interested in leasing space there.
"We went through the Downs from the attic to the basement," he said. "When we got to the basement, we saw rotted timbers. We saw stone wall foundations, leaking and hanging pipes, wires attached to wire, add-on attached to add-on. . . . It was way beyond the point that it could be saved unless there was a tremendous infusion of money."
Hart said that he never even considered turning the old building into a restaurant and that the developers are no longer interested in renovation.
"The building was sitting there (unused) for three years. There were many, many opportunities to come in with restaurants or other businesses," he said. "We're not trying to jam our building down everybody else's throats.
"We don't have any plans to go back and revisit the issue of renovation. What we would do is put it back for sale (if it doesn't receive the necessary approvals)."