Somerset sets hearing on zoning for parcel to encourage development - The Buffalo News

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Somerset sets hearing on zoning for parcel to encourage development

SOMERSET – The Somerset Town Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday to consider modifying zoning restrictions on a parcel once considered by Verizon Communications for a $4 billion data center.

The board hopes to open the site up to more development opportunities, according to Town Supervisor Daniel Engert.

The 180-acre property on Lake Ontario just west of the Upstate New York Power Producers Somerset Coal Plant was zoned for a specific “planned use development” when Verizon considered it for its data center. Verizon abandoned the idea in 2011, and the site has been untouched ever since.

“This is a big project for us,” said Engert. “We’ve been working on it since May as part of a continuing effort to market that parcel. It is now known as the ‘Somerset Lakeshore site,’ and it is being marketed by the Niagara County Center for Economic Development, and it’s one of their prime sites on their website.”

Engert said: “The zoning had been very specific to a data center, and we want to take care of the rezoning and make it as ready as we can to encourage developers to look at it. We need jobs in this area. We think this could be used for a wide variety of uses.”

The supervisor said he convened a committee to study the parcel’s potential, and it has been suggested that it could be considered for numerous ventures, including research and development, a solar or wind production facility, business incubator, agriculture-related business, tourism facility, or breweries or wineries.

Engert said the town, as lead agency, also is pursuing generic state Environmental Quality Review Act approval so that the site would be shovel-ready for a prospective developer until a specific project materializes.

“A lot of environmental review had been done for the proposed Verizon project, “ he noted.

Engert added: “While there are certain things that wouldn’t fit there, like heavy manufacturing, we are trying to be as broad as possible, because we believe there is a wide variety of uses that conform to our plans. We don’t know who is out there looking.”

The public hearing will be convened for residents and business owners to “provide feedback” to the Town Board, Engert said.

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