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The Amherst Planning Board has approved site plans for converting the former St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse into 102 units of "affordable housing" for senior citizens.

CRS Properties has a contract to buy the property from the town and convert it into St. Mary's Commons Senior Apartments at 400 Mill St. The project would be similar in scope to another CRS Properties development, the Hopkins Court Senior Living Community at Hopkins and North French roads.

The state spent $5 million to acquire the motherhouse and 80 acres of surrounding property that is now Amherst State Park. CRS Properties has a contract with the town to buy the motherhouse and about eight acres surrounding the property.

Syracuse developer Skip Serio told the Planning Board on Thursday that state financing for the project should be finalized by the end of December and that closing on the purchase of the property is expected in March. Serio added that the Collegiate Gothic-style motherhouse recently was added to the state and national Registers of Historic Places.

Units at the proposed St. Mary's Commons Senior Apartments would rent for $480 to $580 per month.

In another matter, the Planning Board declined to recommend a zoning change for a 5.2-acre parcel at 140 Irwin Place from general industrial to multiple family zoning. Sciandra Building and Construction had planned to build a 70-unit townhouse complex on the site, which is off Niagara Falls Boulevard and north of Ellicott Creek.

About 24 residents attended Thursday's hearing to protest plans for the apartment complex, though Planning Board Chairman Catherine Weiss warned that current zoning potentially allowed industrial use of the property.

"My concern is that the uses for that property under the current zoning don't usually make residential-friendly businesses," Weiss said.

However, residents said they would still prefer to take their chances with the current zoning.

"This is the evil we know about, because we've already done it," said Mary Brown of Irwin Place.


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