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REZONING SOUGHT FOR STUDENT HOUSING

The proposed rezoning of a vacant parcel in the village to accommodate a student housing complex sparked a spirited discussion at a public hearing Monday night.

Regent Development of Amherst has inquired about building an 83-unit student housing complex on 6.7 acres of vacant land on Brigham Road and Temple Street, if the zoning can be changed.

About 50 people attended the hearing, with about 20 of them speaking out against the proposed rezoning. The Village Board made no decision on the rezoning but may at its meeting Monday night.

The land reportedly is owned by Brooks Hospital and L.G. Hall.

Michael Bobseine, attorney for Regent Development, said the developer builds high-end apartment complexes and has more than 1,000 luxury units in Western New York. The complex proposed for Fredonia would cost $8 million to $10 million and would house only students, with 83 four-bedroom, two-bathroom units. He said Somerset Management, which would operate the proposed complex, has 20 years' experience.

But residents expressed concerns about the impact of a large new complex on water pressure in the area, as well as concerns about noise, trash and property damage. Some also were concerned about the impact a new complex would have on filling current student apartments, with some questioning the need for additional student housing.

Some also questioned the long-range future of the complex, asking if the owners eventually would have difficulty filling the units with students and would have to rent to nonstudents at lower rental rates. But Mayor Frank Pagano said, "The village has to keep growing in order to keep its taxes down. That land has been sitting there vacant for years."

He added that the developer may not even buy the land, even if the zoning is changed from R-3 to R-4 to accommodate the project.

"We're just trying to level the playing field in that area so it's all R-4," he said.

Bernard McElhone, representing Brigham Road Apartments, which is mostly student housing and would be near the proposed housing complex, said the business he represents will fight the zoning change "every step of the way."

The point also was made that if Regent Development wants to build a complex with up to three unrelated people living in each unit, it could do that right now without a change in the zoning law.

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