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James Monroe of Bucyrus Drive in Amherst has numerous concerns about Ciminelli Development's plans to develop a 326-acre parcel east of his home and was champing at the bit Thursday to challenge developers claims about its negligible impact on traffic volumes and drainage in nearby neighborhoods.

Monroe was one of about 70 northwest Amherst residents who sat patiently through a near 2 1/2 -hour presentation on the Muir Woods project during a special Planning Board meeting Thursday. The proposed mixed-use development would be located east Sweet Home Road, west of Campbell Boulevard, north of Dodge Road and south of North French Road.

Ciminelli wants the town to amend existing land uses for the parcel, but opponents argued that a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement presented by the developer is incomplete. Much of the information in it needs to be updated, said Monroe, including a 1993 drainage study he said was the basis for the developer's claims about the adequacy of retention and detention ponds in the area.

"They just duplicated that drainage and did not attempt to go back and attempt to see if there were any major changes in that particular area to see if their study was still appropriate or not," Monroe said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation appears to have a number of concerns about the proposed project as well. Steven J. Dole-ski, a DEC regional permit administrator, Thursday called the developer's environmental review inadequate and cited concerns about "the amount of wetland disturbance (the project requires) and potentially significant overall impacts to the site and surrounding area."

Sean Hopkins, a lawyer for the project, said the developer plans to respond to the DEC's concerns.

Muir Woods is certainly a massive project that dwarfs most others in the region and represents one of the most ambitious attempts at "new urbanism" in the Buffalo metropolitan area.

The proposed $180 million project tentatively includes the construction of 1.5 million square feet of office space that will be intertwined with nature trails wetlands, woods and a lake.

In addition, Ciminelli plans to develop 360,000 square feet of residential space and 250,000 square feet of mixed-use space that will include a combination of apartments, townhouses, restaurants and shops. It has been controversial from the moment it was unveiled, with residents protesting and marching on Town Hall to stop it

After a lull in activity while the environmental studies were done, opponents are gearing up again to get the project squashed, this time mindful that it will be the Town Board that makes the final decision.

Amherst Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said the board won't act until January or February. She said she understands both sides of the battle and that she hasn't "shut the door" on any possibilities as she awaits the chance to see final blueprints.

Still, the attorney representing one of the project's biggest opponents said it is likely to board will side with the Ciminelli.

"The history of Amherst has been a rush to development," said Richard Lippes, the attorney representing the North West Amherst Residents Association. Lippes also predicted the town will be sued over the development.


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