In his capacity as Amherst town engineer for more than 20 years, Roland Doan Jr. has confined his judgments on project plans to his profession -- engineering.
But he made an exception a few days ago that has won him some fans in a Snyder neighborhood northeast of the Park School of Buffalo on Harlem Road.
Doan said a 3 1/2 acre parcel that the school wants to sell to a developer for $300,000 should instead be acquired by the town and preserved in its natural state.
"From an engineering viewpoint, the latest proposed drainage scheme will work," Doan wrote in his report on a proposal to build 12 expensive homes on the land in the Parkledge-Halwill-Burroughs drives neighborhood.
"However," the engineer continued, "I spent an hour and a half . . . wandering around the area and I have come to the conclusion that this development should not occur.
"The area is an environmental jewel," Doan said in the report, which was read into the record by a Halwill Drive resident at a public hearing on the project before the Amherst Planning Board last Thursday night.
"I don't live too far from (the site), and I have never seen the songbirds in my backyard or at my bird feeders that I have seen in this little spot," Doan wrote.
"Quite frankly, I was completely charmed and fascinated by it all.
"My personal feeling is that the town should acquire the area proposed for development as well as the existing pond and marsh area from the Park School and leave it forever wild," he said.
Doan further recommended that "the town should undertake some improvements to the existing drainage from the pond and swamp (to the west) to protect the residents on Halwill that back up to the swamp."
Doan told other town officials that if the subdivision is built, the town will lose access to the storm-drainage system that takes flow from the Fruehauf Drive-Chateau Terrace area, and that the ditch that receives the flow "will become even more inaccessible than it now is.
"I have a feeling," Doan reported, "that the existing drainage system from Fruehauf and Chateau Terrace is all screwed up and eventually some remedial work will have to be done.
"Town acquisition of the property would greatly simplify matters.
"I think we should take another look at the entire area, not just (the subdivision site)," the engineer said.
Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Harold J. Collier, the Town Board's longtime drainage chieftain, said he supports Doan's recommendation.
"From an environmental standpoint, for its size and location, it's unique in Amherst," Collier said. "From a drainage standpoint, the swamp area is completely unpredictable."