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WILLOW RIDGE RESIDENTS OPPOSE APARTMENT PLAN

Dozens of residents in the Willow Ridge neighborhood in Amherst are irate over plans by M.J. Peterson Corp. to build 130 apartments on Chestnut Ridge Road.

The company plans to build the apartment complex in four phases. Eventually, a total of 400 units will be built in the complex, which will be located in Willow Ridge, just off Niagara Falls Boulevard near I-990.

Owners of the single-family homes on nearby streets say their once-quiet community already is suffering from rush-hour gridlock. And another 600 or more cars in that area each day -- which the complex is expected to add -- would make a bad situation that much worse.

Peter Nichols, a Dalewood Drive resident, was one of several people who urged the Amherst Planning Board on Thursday to consider the consequences of the increased traffic when they decide whether to approve the proposed site plan.

"I've been driving my freshman son to high school every morning," he said, "and I can tell you that every day, I wait at least two (light changes) to get onto Sweet Home Road. I'm telling you we already have a serious traffic problem in that area.

"God forbid there's ever a fire, because you just can't get by. There's nowhere to go."

"Traffic is backed up several light changes every morning," said Debra Haendiges, president of the Willow Ridge Civic Association. "The magnitude of what's being proposed will create additional traffic flow."

Traffic issues topped the list of concerns for many residents, but others articulated additional worries.

Dalewood Drive resident Dan Selkirk said the apartment complex not only would strain community resources such as fire and police protection, but also would alter the character of the neighborhood.

One resident cited what some neighbors perceive as M.J. Peterson's neglect of other rental property in that area as a cause for concern.

"What is Peterson going to do with that property?" asked Alex Papafagos, who lives on Dalewood Drive. "He's got a bad track record. He doesn't take care of his rental property. Is he going to make that a slum of Amherst?"

M.J. Peterson officials have said they hope to break ground in the spring. The one- and two-bedroom apartments will rent for $750 to $1,000 a month.

At the request of M.J. Peterson, the board Thursday postponed voting on the site plan for the complex.

When the final touches were being put on a wetlands study of the area, experts determined there are more than five acres of wetlands on the 60-acre site, according to attorney Anthony J. Renaldo, who represents the developer. The company has decided to redesign the plan.

The Planning Board might reconsider the issue as early as October, depending on how soon a revised site plan is ready, officials said.

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