Two residents tried unsuccessfully six times Monday evening to stall requests to the Buffalo Planning Board to combine lots – including for the Pegulas and Dash's Markets – as the board's chairman repeatedly rejected their complaints about process and transparency.
Larry Gottesman of the Crocker Park neighborhood and James Rozanski of the University District attempted to force the Planning Board to table six proposals in a row, citing the failure of the board to follow its own rules and the new city zoning law.
The two – vocal advocates of the city's new Green Code – called on the board to cancel public hearings and allow more time for review instead.
Gottesman contended the public had no opportunity to review the projects in advance because documents related to them were not available on the city's website.
"How can we have public review without public documents?" Gottesman asked. "I would respectfully request that this be tabled until the proper public documents be supplied."
He also argued that the applicants had not submitted the proper forms to the city for the "minor subdivision reviews" that were being requested. Under the city's zoning laws, combining lots is considered part of a "subdivision."
And he complained that the city was not properly evaluating all of the requests in accordance with Green Code requirements that certain factors be reviewed.
"I don't see how the board can even consider this," Gottesman said. "I've not heard the board address any of them."
But board chairman James Morell and planning director Nadine Marrero turned away Gottesman's arguments, saying all of the documents were properly submitted and available in the city's Planning Office. They also noted that neither the Green Code nor the public hearing notices required that all of the information be available online.
The city has been posting most applications, renderings, letters and other documents for projects on its web portal in the last year, since the new site was launched.
Morrell also argued that the public hearing provided an opportunity to learn about the project and comment on it.
"We hold a public hearing so everyone can weigh in," Morrell said. "Did you not hear the presentation?"
All six proposals were approved. They included requests by:
- Pegula Sports & Entertainment, to combine 79 Perry St. and 55 Illinois St., as part of its project to convert the former Hi-Temp complex into a mixed-use facility that would include the corporate headquarters for Labatt USA, the John Labatt House restaurant and test brewery, other offices and apartments. The project was approved in July, but the parcels need to be united for the permits.
- Dash Markets, to combine nine lots into 1764 Hertel Ave. for its new supermarket. The lots include a single-family home, a commercial building, a chiropractor's office and the old store that comprises five lots already.
- The Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Co., to combine 429 Plymouth Ave. with 378 Normal Ave., as part of its project to convert the former Public School 77 into 30 apartments and a first-floor commercial space, with a gazebo and playground on the site.
- New Hope Baptist Church, to combine the church at 2090 Genesee St. with a planned parking lot at 2110 Genesee St.
- Hormoz Mansouri, to combine two commercial parcels at 212 Holden St.
- A homeowner at 62 Littlefield St., to combine her home with the vacant lots behind her at 53-55 Wisconsin.