The Orchard Park Town Board voted Wednesday night to allow homes to be sited more closely together in exchange for keeping other parts of developments green.
The "Conservation Management Overlay District" addition to the town's zoning code was approved by a 4-1 vote.
"It was something we wanted to get done months ago," said Councilman Stanley Jemiolo Jr. "It's something that's going to benefit the community, and I'm glad we got it done before I left."
Jemiolo lost his bid to keep his seat, losing in the November elections to Deborah Yeomans. Wednesday was his last board meeting.
The measure would allow builders on 50 acres to group homes on a portion of a subdivision, keeping the other parts forever green.
It helps the developer by reducing the need for more roads and water and sewer lines. It helps the town by reducing roads that need to be plowed and by keeping some areas undisturbed.
Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy cast the only vote against the proposal.
She said she had received queries from residents about whether the district was being custom designed for Dominic B. Piestrak's proposed development at the intersection of Jewett-Holmwood and Freeman roads and how that project might affect drainage in that area.
Piestrak requested the kind of zoning approved Wednesday as an alternative to standard single-family homes when he approached the board in 2003. His plans are to build upscale retirement homes near his Birdsong subdivision.
Jemiolo said Travers Murphy's doubts were misplaced, because Piestrak already could put an equivalent number of standard homes on the property, and the increased paving and wider building area would cause more draining problems.
The new "floating zone" reduces potential drainage complications, he said.
The district "floats" because it can be applied wherever a lot fits requirements and the board approves it.
The zoning has the support of the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, which approved the zoning earlier this month and congratulated Orchard Park on promoting "more cluster-type development to preserve natural and scenic qualities of the town."