The Amherst Planning Board on Thursday approved revised site plans for the proposed Hedstrom Manor Townhouse development after deciding it would not have an adverse environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
Neighbors of the old Hedstrom Mansion, however, remained unimpressed with the project, even though a controversial ring road was removed from the original proposal. Michael Flaherty, a lawyer hired by the neighbors, insisted the project is out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.
"There is nothing comparable in the neighborhood," Flaherty said during a hearing on the plan Thursday. "It just doesn't fit."
At least two of the seven members on the Planning Board agreed.
"I think it's the same undesirable project in a different wrapping," said Planning Board member Paul A. Beyer.
Both Beyer and fellow board member Debra A. Norton balked at plans to ring the stucco-sided mansion with five vinyl-clad duplexes, which they agreed would be at odds with the other houses in the neighborhood. The average home in the neighborhood is assessed at $340,000, according to Flaherty, and is considerably more stately than duplexes the developer, CRS Properties, plans to build.
Owner Skip Serio, however, insisted the apartments would be of high quality.
"These are going to be the highest-priced apartments in Amherst," he said after the hearing.
Serio said each two-bedroom unit would average 1,310 square feet. The townhouse development would be located on a wooded, 2.56-acre parcel on Getzville Road between High Court and Elmhurst roads. The turn-of-the-century Hedstrom mansion would be converted into eight apartments.
The parcel at 80 Getzville Road is properly zoned for the proposed project, Serio added. Still, neighbors blanched at the prospect of the vinyl-sided duplexes.
"I realize it's zoned properly, but I don't think it's within the spirit of the zoning," said Joel Lippman of Four Winds Way. "It's a catastrophe to me to see vinyl-sided homes on that property."
However, Planning Board member Joseph Testa, who retired Thursday night from the board after seven years of service, advised disgruntled neighbors to consider approaching the owner about purchasing the parcel. "Ultimately if you want to control the property, you have to own it," he said.