A cluster development ordinance is now reality in the Town of Aurora, three months after the town approved a controversial 47-unit upscale patio home project on Quaker Road.
The Town Board on Monday unanimously approved the ordinance, which a handful of critics had urged the town to adopt before it gave the go-ahead for the project that is under construction near Knox Farm State Park by Legacy Development of Amherst.
The project was not mentioned Monday as town officials lauded the cluster development ordinance they passed. At the time Legacy Polo Grounds won approval, the town said it didn't need such an ordinance on the books. The development is now the focus of litigation initiated by a citizens group against the town.
The ordinance stipulates the permitted number of building lots allowed in a subdivision, minimum lot sizes and density requirements. Open space would constitute a minimum of 50 percent of the total acreage, with the minimum development area to be at least 10 acres. Buffer and screening areas also must be landscaped or left in their natural state.
"We're looking to enhance, not just preserve, green space," Supervisor Terence M. Yarnall said Monday, noting the new law was rewritten several times before its approval came.
"It's a tougher law but gives the Town Board control and lets the developer know this is what we want and expect," Yarnall said.
Aurora Planning Board Chairman Bill Adams noted that the law applies to areas just within sewer districts and said it is also important that it apply to areas outside sewer districts.
Town leaders also approved a Right-to-Farm law to protect local farmers in the hope of avoiding what can lead to nuisance lawsuits.
When residential areas extend into agricultural areas, some complaints lead to nuisance suits, which can sometimes force farms to close or stop investing in their operation.
To promote harmony between farms and their new neighbors, Aurora is requiring the landholders and their agents to provide a notice to prospective purchasers about the town's policy to conserve, protect and encourage farm operations. Those conditions could include noise, odors, fumes, dust, operation of machinery day or night and storage and disposal of animal waste and the use of chemical fertilizers.
"Horse farms are important for the identity of Aurora," Yarnall said.
Harris noted that far fewer farms exist today than when he grew up in the area. "If you don't want to smell manure, don't come here," he said of the legislation that was approved unanimously.
Any outstanding farm issues would be referred to the town's Conservation Advisory Council, which would act as a grievance committee to review the matter and make recommendations.