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Transit Road Corridor is group focus

Public meetings may be held to help determine design standards for the Transit Road Corridor, Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Thursday at a meeting of the focus group heading the effort to improve the look of Route 78.

The intermunicipal focus group has been meeting since early last year to discuss common standards for future development along South Transit Road from the Erie Canal to Tonawanda Creek. The corridor begins in the heart of the City of Lockport, runs south into the Town of Lockport and south of Route 93 becomes the border between the towns of Lockport and Pendleton.

Pat Darrow of Newfane, an architect with MPD Architecture, addressed the group to suggest using a "charrette" process to create a detailed vision for Transit.

She described a charrette as "an intensive participatory planning process [involving] community brainstorming."

She said they would involve thorough preparation and the use of many facilitators for small groups, who would begin by taking their group on a bus or car tour of Transit Road to point out likes and dislikes.

The facilitators would gather later and put the results together into a plan for the focus group to consider.

The planning pros at the meeting liked Darrow's idea. Matthew Balling, a transportation analyst for the state Department of Transportation, said that with a charrette, "People feel like they contributed something. . . . It takes good architectural facilitators to get a good result."

"It's a very engaging thing," said Town of Lockport Planner Andrew C. Reilly.

Smith said some South Transit businesses are already contacting him, asking what they can do to make their facades comply with the group's vision. The only problem: "We don't know what it is yet," Smith said.

He added, "I know one group that's going to be keenly interested is the Lockport auto dealers. I know they're concerned we might be going in a direction that's not allowed by their franchise agreements." He said he has met with the auto dealers twice.

Town of Lockport Councilman David H. Knight said Pendleton needs to add an "auto overlay district" to its zoning ordinance, as Lockport has.

"They have a number of what I call underfinanced auto dealers," Knight said. James A. Sacco Jr., a member of the Pendleton Planning Board, said his town is working on better standards for used-car lots.

The group has discussed in general terms a "historic" look for new construction. Knight suggested that a Transit Corridor overlay district be added to all three municipalities' zoning ordinances.

Reilly said it's not bad if there are slight differences among the municipal rules. "We don't want sameness. We want things that complement and work together with each other," he said.

The focus group plans to call the corridor "TransitNorth." Smith said he will poll members by e-mail on whether they prefer "Gateway to Historic Niagara" or "Historic Canalway Corridor."


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