Share this article

print logo

Zoning Board OKs variance for senior housing project; Clarence supervisor applauds move; critics wary of changing density rules

A proposed senior housing complex in Clarence that spawned a debate about the town's density restrictions has cleared an important hurdle.

The Zoning Board of Appeals, by a 3-2 vote, approved Affordable Senior Housing Opportunities' revised request for a variance.

The vote puts the project back on track, after the board in January rejected a larger requested variance.

The project drew increased attention when the Town Board in February held a public hearing on whether to loosen the town's density restrictions for multifamily properties in some areas of town. Many residents spoke out against such a change or said they wanted more information, and the Town Board took no action.

The senior complex still needs to secure additional approval from the town before it can be built. But Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr., who staunchly supports the project, applauded the Zoning Board of Appeal's vote.

"I think it's the right project at the right time," he said. "We let Wegmans slip away, shame on us. But we came back, righted the wrong, and now we're going to have a great project going up there for senior citizens. I hope it's the first of many."

Affordable Senior Housing Opportunities went back to the Zoning Board with a plan to build a complex consisting of 125 units, or 13.9 units per acre, for seniors capable of living independently, north of Roll Road near Transit Road.

Town law restricts multifamily density to eight units per acre, so Affordable Senior Housing Opportunities sought, and received, a variance of 5.9 units per acre, or 53 units.

The developer in January had requested a variance of 6.6 units per acre. The site is part of the land where a Wegmans supermarket was once proposed.

Hartzell said he felt the developer's decision to compromise by revising the project slightly -- with six fewer units -- helped it win approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals this time.

"[The developer] bent a little bit and as a result, the people on the [Zoning Board] bent a little bit," he said.

The developer's revised project is expected to be on the Planning Board's agenda May 2, said Al Schultz, the Planning Board's chairman.

Schultz, speaking at the Town Board's work session this week, noted that Town Board members had not yet decided whether to approve a special exception use permit for the project.

"Our intent is to give you the best concept that we can put on that lot," he said.

Separately, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance for Niagara County Produce's planned new market, greenhouse and warehouse building on 13.2 acres at 8555 Transit Road. The variance request involved setbacks on the property to allow for construction of the new facility.