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A $5.5 million Orchard Park condominium complex met its first hurdle Tuesday and failed to clear the bar.

The Zoning Board of Appeals denied a setback variance for one of the five buildings.

Walter Schmidt Jr. and David Smith want to build 52 condominiums in five buildings on 14.4 acres on California Road near Duerr Road.

The condominiums would be "modestly priced" at $145,000 each, the developers said.

However, nine residents speaking against the project pointed to the absence of water lines, overburdened sanitary sewers, poor drainage and an abundance of wildlife they currently enjoy watching.

"There are wetlands all over the place -- I pay taxes on five acres myself," said Richard Bodhorn. "I counted 30 deer there. Take away their range and we'll have another Amherst, with deer-damage problems."

Residents also noted that there are four town baseball diamonds on the narrow road and that, when the Buffalo Bills play at Rich Stadium, fans cutting through the street at high speeds pose a danger to children and pets.

Zoners were asked to allow a 40-foot setback for one of the proposed buildings on a cul-de-sac. The law requires a 75-foot setback.

Representatives for the project admitted they might be able to realign the five buildings or might shift units from the five-unit building to the other four buildings or perhaps build fewer units, though that would raise the per-unit selling price.

"You understand that this board is only asked to make a decision on a small part of the project, not the project itself?" Chairman Arthur Coon said.

The panel unanimously rejected the variance because other options might be available with some redesign work.

In other matters, the Zoning Board granted an exception to the sign law for the new Commerce Center on Sterling Drive and Milestrip Road, home to the new Mentholatum plant and headquarters, and medical offices.

Architects opted for two curving stone walls at the entrance, rather than a free-standing sign. Each wall will have letters spelling out "Sterling Commerce Center." The zoners approved plans for the walls but said the letters may not exceed the allowable 40 square feet.

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