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Plan's impact on growth debated

In addition to maintaining Clarence's semi-rural vistas and providing consistent enforcement of the town's land use regulations, a 15-year master plan adopted in 2001 was intended to curb growth in Erie County's fastest-growing town.

Whether the town is achieving that balance became a topic for debate Wednesday between lawmakers promoting slower growth and a prominent developer during a public hearing on the master plan.

As they have for the last five years, residents were invited Wednesday to suggest revisions in the master plan.

While noting that residential growth, for the first time in five years, had a positive effect last year on the general fund and Highway Department budgets, Councilman Scott A. Bylewski said unchecked growth still could overtax the town's infrastructure if the master plan is not followed carefully.

"We have a city that is losing population, and we are expanding geographically into the second-ring suburbs, further stretching out our infrastructure, and we really need to take a look at that," Bylewski said.

As one of the few growing communities in the region, he said, the town has "a responsibility to our residents to make sure that our planning practices . . . are in conformance with our master plan."

But Victor Martucci, a town resident and vice president of Marrano Marc Equity, described the belief that residential development in the suburbs drains residential development from the city as a myth.

"We are not sacrificing the city when we develop in the suburbs. They are completely different markets," Martucci said.

"You are not going to help the City of Buffalo by shutting down growth in this town. . . . These very people who are here tonight telling you that they want you to limit growth are going to be back here in five or six years when their taxes have gone through the roof because you stymied growth in your residential tax base," he added.

Councilman Joseph Weiss challenged Martucci's arguments.

"Your calculations do not include the failing sewers, failing roads, the bond issue [the Clarence School Board] had to promote for [an extensive renovation of the middle school to relieve overcrowding]," Weiss said.

At the start of Wednesday's hearing, Bylewski noted that the town issued 123 permits last year for new single-family homes. Fifty-two were for homes built outside approved subdivisions. That, he said, represented the largest percentage of homes built outside sewer-equipped subdivisions over the last nine years.

Recommendations for updating the master plan will be forwarded to the Town Board.


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