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Tonawanda residents air concerns on 50-foot height of proposed Holiday Inn Express

Plans for a 50-foot-tall hotel on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda came under fire Monday night as residents neighboring the project brought their privacy concerns to the Town Board.

At least a dozen residents of the Parkview neighborhood, near Ellicott Creek Park, said they were frustrated after a more than two-year battle with the developer over the height of the planned four-story Holiday Inn Express to be built between Thistle and Forbes avenues.

“Somebody has to put their foot down,” said Nadine Ocasio, a resident of Dexter Terrace. “We elected you to be our voices. We’re here. We’re strong. We’re sitting here and asking for your help. I’m not sure what else we need to do.”

Ocasio said residents have been working with the town’s Planning and Zoning boards on the issue, but have not been satisfied with the existing plans for the property, which is blighted and contains an abandoned motel and three vacant homes.

“While they’re both sympathetic to our plight, no laws are being broken here, which is why we’re here this evening,” she said.

She presented 200 signed petitions asking the Town Board to review current zoning laws in areas where commercial properties abut residential properties. A similar controversy in Amherst had that town reviewing its zoning laws after residents of a Snyder neighborhood lost their fight against the six-story Hyatt Place Hotel on Main Street, near the I-290, she said.

Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. said he has worked closely with the residents on the issue, but that town officials had limited options at their disposal. He said the residents’ input could be contributed to a comprehensive review of zoning laws at some point.

“All that work that you’ve put in, and your neighbors have put in, did not fall on deaf ears by any means,” Bargnesi told Ocasio.

During the sometimes contentious and emotional meeting, Ocasio said residents are concerned that hotel guests on the top floors will have a clear view into their homes and backyards.

“We don’t want a wall in our backyards,” she told the board.

Ocasio said residents actually welcome the project being developed by Chan Patel, under the name Darien Lake Buffalo, LLC.

They just want Patel to shorten the height of the 84-room hotel by expanding its footprint to the south.

“There is room on that property to do so,” she said. “However, again, it just is a case of money. It’s more expensive to build out than it is to build up.”

The Planning Board will consider revised site plans when it meets Wednesday evening in the Municipal Building. Planning Board Chairman Ken Swanekamp told the Town Board that his board could act on Wednesday but also that it could not indefinitely delay the project. The plans conform to existing town codes.

When the project was announced in March 2013, it was granted two variances by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. One allows it to be built at 50 feet, 5 feet above the maximum 45 feet allowed by town code.

The other allows the hotel to be set back only 20 feet from Niagara Falls Boulevard, to increase the distance from neighboring backyards.