The Town of Aurora Planning Board this week upheld an earlier decision to rezone property on Mill Road, slated for a major residential complex constructed by the Presbyterian Homes of Western New York, to a form of residential zoning from agricultural.
The action comes despite pleas from Town Attorney Frederick Wolf, who urged the Planning Board to reconsider its September decision and recommend rezoning the vacant property to a business classification. Wolf said it gives Presbyterian Homes more "flexibility" in incorporating into their plans exactly what they want to do. "They applied for B-1, I presume, because they want the greatest flexibility," Wolf said.
Wolf said he was concerned that Presbyterian Homes may want to open a beauty salon, small store and other business operations, something that would not be permitted in residential zoning. Wolf said that as a state approved not-for-profit entity, Presbyterian Homes must fall under the guidelines of being a "charitable, social, religious, community or cultural organization," something officials were hard pressed to come to terms with.
He conceded that under residential zoning, what the developer wants to do "is subject to some serious argument. . . . I think there are legitimate concerns" regarding potential lawsuits over zoning it residential, Wolf said. He said that R-3 zoning, as the Planning Board has recommended to the Town Board, would be "more restrictive . . . and inconsistent" with what the developer has in mind. Furthermore, Wolf said, it could open up a court challenge for anyone who wanted to derail the project.
Attorney Arthur Giacalone, who spoke at Tuesday's meeting, suggested that a new zoning classification be created permitting this type of development. "I'd have a field day" in challenging the Presbyterian Homes development plan in court if hired to do so, Giacalone said. "It's like trying to "fit this round peg into a square hole."
Presbyterian Homes plans on building a large retirement complex on 70 acres of vacant land on Mill near Sweet roads south of the Village of East Aurora. The homes would sell initially for up to $185,000 each, with an initiation fee placed on top of that, officials have said.
The board voted 5-1-1 to remain with its original R-3 residential zoning classification recommendation. Board member Jack Byrnes voted no, while member Donald Owens abstained. The Town Board is not bound by law to accept the Planning Board's recommendation, but takes it only as an
advisory opinion, officials said.