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26-acre parcel identified for parkland swap in Amherst

To build a hotel on 3 acres of parkland adjacent to Amherst's Northtown Center, an equal or greater amount of parkland needs to be designated elsewhere in the town.

The parcel town officials have identified as potential new parkland is greater – nearly nine times greater, in fact.

A 26.6-acre parcel of wooded, town-owned land between North French Road and Casey Road in the East Amherst Conservation Area has been proposed.

"It's a very good trade," said Town Attorney Stanley J. Sliwa.

The Town Board will consider the proposal at its meeting Monday night in Council Chambers.

The parcel is just west of Transit Road and bounded by Got Creek to the east and San Fernando Lane to the west. It would connect two other parcels to the north and south already designated as parkland, creating one large contiguous park that could one day incorporate a walking trail along the creek, said Deputy Supervisor Steven D. Sanders.

"The recreational value of that lot is far greater than the land we're giving up," said Sanders, who is sponsoring the proposed swap.

The proposal to construct a new hotel at the ice rink complex took the first step forward in early March, when the Town Board agreed to begin the process of removing the parkland designation from the 3 acres.

The Town Board authorized Sliwa to initiate the process of "alienation," which requires the town to transfer the parkland designation to a parcel elsewhere in the town.

The hotel would be built on 3 acres next to the town-owned Northtown Center, along Amherst Manor Road and near the University at Buffalo North Campus, land that is now part of the Audubon Recreation Complex.

The site is currently filled by a stormwater detention pond, but the pond doesn't even detain water because of the soil, Sliwa said.

The town has received one proposal for a hotel from a developer who has not yet been publicly identified. But a hotel on the site is not a sure thing.

"The one thing we're trying to emphasize is it's not a given a hotel is going to go there," said Sliwa.

Meanwhile, the parcel in East Amherst offers potential for active recreational use, from its current passive use.

"You can go from passive to active," Sliwa said. "It's a question of what will the land permit you to do. We may be restricted to very passive uses, depending on how wet it is."

The town's Planning Department maintains an inventory of town-owned land, including parkland.

"They identified four potential parcels," said Sliwa. "This one made the most sense from the standpoint of what its recreational uses could be."

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