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Residents in northwest Amherst will finally get to hear exactly how Ciminelli Development plans to address their concerns about how the proposed 326-acre Muir Woods project will affect traffic, wetlands and drainage in the area.

Those questions went largely unanswered when the state Department of Environmental Conservation raised them at a public hearing Oct. 28. But they will be on the table again when the Planning Board holds a special meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 in Town Hall.

Muir Woods is, perhaps, the largest development of its kind ever proposed in the town.

The $180 million project tentatively includes the construction of 1.5 million square feet of office space that will be intertwined with nature trails, wetlands, woods and a lake.

Ciminelli also plans to develop 360,000 square feet of residential space and 250,000 square feet of mixed-use space that will include a combination of apartments, townhouses, restaurants and shops.

Controversial from the moment it was unveiled, nearby residents have been protesting to stop it and even hired a lawyer to represent their interests.

"The DEC raised many of the same issues that I raised and my clients raised," said Richard Lippes, attorney for the Northwest Amherst Residents Association, who joined many of his clients at last month's public hearing.

Ciminelli wants the town to amend existing land-use rules for the parcel, but opponents argued that a draft environmental impact statement presented by the developer is incomplete.

Even though the public comment period on the environmental impact statement was closed following last month's public hearing, Lippes lamented that he and his clients were effectively left unable to review or comment on the study because it required such radical changes in order to deal with the issues raised by the DEC.

"Each of those issues needs to be addressed, in particular the issues pertaining to wetlands, drainage and traffic, which are very serious concerns of the community," Lippes said.

Sean Hopkins of Renaldo Myers, a law firm representing Ciminelli, said the developer has already submitted a letter to the DEC responding to its concerns, which it will share with the Planning Board at the special meeting.

Neither Lippes nor residents will be allowed to offer comments at the meeting, because the public hearing phase was closed after last month's meeting.

There will, of course, be other opportunities for public comment, as this is only the first step in the process, Hopkins noted.

According to Town Planning Director Eric Gillert, even though the state raised a number of concerns about the project, it did not rule out going forward with the venture.


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