For years, the area was considered part of Delaware Park. But a local church is taking back the tree-lined site to build a home for its priest.
No one challenges St. George Orthodox Catholic Church's ownership of the land, but preservationists worry that a new building might intrude on the park.
"I don't think we can stop them," said Margery A. Miller, chairwoman of the Delaware Park Steering Committee. "But people are concerned about what they're going to build and if they're going to cut down every tree."
The land, a small triangular-shaped lot on Nottingham Terrace near Amherst Street, has been owned by the church since 1963 and apparently never was part of Delaware Park. It, nevertheless, has been left undeveloped and used frequently by visitors.
"It will be an attractive building," said the Rev. George Timko, pastor of St. George's. "It will be a building commensurate with the neighborhood."
Father Timko says the rectory was planned after the church was vandalized.
He said the proximity of the rectory will improve security. But preservationists are concerned about the loss of open space and how the building might affect the historic design of the park, considered one of the major works of Frederick Law Olmsted.
"We recognize they have legal rights to the land," said Susan West, executive director of the Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks. "We're concerned about the impact on the trees and the visual impact."
The church's plans call for a two-story brick and brown cedar house. Father Timko said every effort was made to keep the house unobtrusive, and the church is willing to take design suggestions from neighbors and park advocates.
To provide enough room for the house, several trees will have to be cut down. Father Timko said replacement trees will be planted.
Preservationists, nevertheless, want a say in the type of building that goes up.
"It's not that we want to prevent a private party from building on their own land," Ms. West said, "but we want them to be sensitive to the environment around them."
Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola says the city can do very little because the land is privately owned and zoned for a single-family home. He plans to ask the church to present its plans at a community meeting.
Father Timko said the church will ask City Hall for a building permit in the next few weeks, in hopes of completing the rectory by October.