Smaller houses suggested as way to kick-start a Lackawanna subdivision - The Buffalo News
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Smaller houses suggested as way to kick-start a Lackawanna subdivision

More than five years after pavement, curbs and sewers went in, Lackawanna’s newest subdivision consists of a single home, built in 2011.

Weeds, some as tall as August cornstalks, occupy the rest of the neighborhood.

Now, a home-building and realty company has approached city officials with a plan that might lead to some neighboring houses being built.

Sunset Realty of Western New York and Sunset Custom Homes wants to construct a model home on one of the 18 available lots in the stalled subdivision. The Lackawanna company also has submitted a marketing proposal to the city and hopes to become the exclusive listing agent for properties in the subdivision off Martin Road.

“We’re still trying to finalize our plans with the City of Lackawanna,” said F. Thomas Pecora, consulting realtor and manager with Sunset. “Hopefully, something will develop.”

Pecora declined to comment further in a brief phone interview.

The land near Martin Road Elementary School has been cleared for building since 2009, but only three lots have sold. One of the buyers is in a legal dispute with the city and wants his money back.

And just the one house, assessed at $200,000, has been built so far.

The rest of the lots are overgrown with weeds and field grass.

City officials originally envisioned a high-end subdivision catering to buyers who might otherwise build large homes in surrounding suburbs. The city spent upward of $830,000 on street paving and storm sewers. Covenants stipulated minimum house sizes of 1,800 square feet for single-story ranches and 2,400 square feet for two-story homes.

City officials hoped the development would boost the city’s tax base.

But buyers have not come forward, and the city has recouped less than $50,000 of its investment.

Sunset Realty wants to be the exclusive listing agent for the subdivision for at least two years.

The company has not proposed being the exclusive builder, although it would earn a commission from the sale of each lot, no matter who builds on it.

The company made its proposal contingent on the city changing the covenants to allow for homes as small as 1,500 square feet on the lots.

Some builders maintain there is a small market in Lackawanna for new homes 1,800 square feet and larger that cost $200,000 or more.

The average home size in the city is about 1,200 square feet, said Frank Krakowski, city assessor. The current median home value in Lackawanna is about $80,000, according to U.S. census data.

Sunset’s proposal came at a recent City Council meeting. Council members expressed interest in amending the square-footage requirements but said they needed to check with land owners who purchased lots under the previous covenants.

They voted to table the measure.

According to Sunset’s marketing plan, the company would advertise homes “starting at $170,000 complete” at the entrance of the subdivision. It would build a model home that would be open for viewing by appointment and on weekends for prospective buyers from 1 to 3 p.m.

Krakowski, the city assessor, said the company was hoping to get a model home opened by the end of this year but would need three to four months to build.

In 2011, Burke Homes proposed constructing 1,400-square-foot ranches and 1,800-square-foot two-story homes in exchange for being named the preferred builder in the subdivision – a plan that had the support of then-Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr.

The Council back then did not approve the proposal. Four of the five Council members have changed since 2011, and Polanski has been succeeded by Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski. Developer David Burke said his interest in the Martin Road subdivision could be renewed, if the project makes fiscal sense.

The current Council voted in January to lower prices of the parcels by $5,000 each as a way to attract renewed interest.

The 18 lots are now available for $15,000 to $25,000, instead of the previous $20,000 to $30,000.


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