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Amherst Town Board OKs zoning change to allow used-car dealership

The Amherst Town Board has approved a zoning change to accommodate a proposed CarMax used-car dealership on two contiguous parcels at 1881 and 1893 Niagara Falls Blvd.

At a special meeting this week, the board also approved Benderson Development’s request to lift a 51-year-old restriction that limited the uses for the property to four specific types of developments: a Holiday Inn hotel, a gas station, an industrial plant and office buildings.

Also, before the Town Board rezoned the property Monday, a car dealership that sold new automobiles would have been acceptable under its prior general business zoning designation, but not a used-car dealership, according to town Planning Department officials.

Even though there are no residential neighbors near the property, some town residents argued against the developer’s request for a zoning change to the motor services designation, which allows for a used-car dealership on the site. The residents characterized the surrounding area as a hospitality corridor that is home to several hotels which, they insisted, would be a better use for the site. The property is located just south of the Youngmann Highway.

Councilwoman Ramona D. Popowich, who eventually voted in favor of both the rezoning and lifting the deed restrictions on the parcel, initially agreed that the site was better suited for a hotel.

“The other concern I have is that if you’re just coming into Amherst via the I-290 and you get off at Niagara Falls Boulevard and this is what you see when you first come into Amherst, do we want people to see a used-car lot or would we prefer to see maybe a hotel there?” Popowich asked.

However, Jeffrey D. Palumbo, an attorney representing the owner of the site, argued that the town’s comprehensive plan actually supports a large concentration of retail uses in that corridor, as well as auto-oriented businesses that include auto sales and service.

“What does the comprehensive plan say about that particular parcel and the corridor that that parcel is contained within? It couldn’t be any clearer in your comprehensive plan. This is the perfect spot for this type of use,” Palumbo said.

Even after the rezoning, the developer still required the Town Board to take action to relieve restrictions that had been in place on the site since 1964. Otherwise, the prior deed restriction would have remained in place regardless of the property’s zoning, said Assistant Planning Director Gary Black.

Virginia-based CarMax is the largest chain of used-car dealerships in the nation. Its only other operation in New York State is in Rochester.