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Debate began in earnest Monday on a rezoning application and plan to develop a row of condominium buildings within a block of East Aurora's Main Street business district. The Village Board voted to table the measure for further study.

At issue is a proposal by East Aurora-based Millennium Marketing, consultants and local developers, to construct five four-unit condominium complexes at 41 Riley St. The condos would be targeted to young professionals in and around East Aurora and older couples who no longer have children living at home.

"It's the trend nationwide to develop housing next to downtown areas. Housing complements the commercial businesses in the area," said George Grasser, attorney for the developers. "It's consistent with smart growth."

James C. Watt, president of Millennium Marketing, said plans are to construct the units over a two-year period. Cost estimates for the overall project are not yet available, he said.

Each of the 20 units planned would be privately owned and most would include accompanying two-car garage facilities.

Some of the trustees didn't readily accept the philosophy of the petitioners who seek to develop the residential units on property otherwise zoned for commercial purposes.

"The reasons for zoning is to protect the residents from businesses as well as protect businesses from residents. There is a conflict there," said Donald H. Nieman, village trustee.

Trustee Lowell B. Dewey expressed concern over fixing the downtown property as residential in the long run if the plan is accepted.

"It's a very tough decision for (me) to make. To me, the best use of this site would be retain business on the lower level and housing on the upper level. You'd have the best of both worlds," Dewey said.

Arthur Giacalone, a village resident and local attorney who has been outspoken for strict zoning standards, also expressed concern during a public hearing on the issue.

"I'm troubled by the suggestion that this is the appropriate use for this particular land," Giacalone said. "When you go to that parcel and see what's around that parcel, to suggest this is consistent with (the village's) comprehensive plan is mind-boggling. Where else do we have to expand commercial and retail (development) in this village?"

Other residents generally spoke favor of the proposal.

Watt estimated the condos would likely market for just under $120,000.

The Village Board is expected to begin preparing its findings for the project in order to vote on the rezoning at a future meeting.

If the rezoning is approved expeditiously and developers get the go-ahead on the plan, construction could begin as early as late next month, according to Watt.

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