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Lockport approves guidelines for design Planning Board sets criteria for buildings

The town Planning Board last week approved a package of guidelines for developers to use in designing commercial buildings that won't clash with the town's aesthetic sense.

"It's a set of guidelines that shows the kind of buildings we like and the kind we don't like," Planning Board Chairman Richard Forsey said.

The material follows from an architectural design review law the Town Board passed last July.

The law tried to prevent the construction of ugly buildings but didn't define what the town found unacceptable.

However, it gave the Planning Board the power to come up with some guidelines. A subcommittee of the board worked on the project for three months, according to a memorandum by Dana Braun of Wendel Duchscherer, the town's engineering firm.

And what buildings doesn't the Planning Board approve of?

"Flat roofs, buildings close to the road, buildings with all the parking in front instead of on the sides or in back," Forsey said. "The big square box style. Buildings with peaks on them we like, like Wal-Mart."

He was referring to the plans for the Wal-Mart supercenter, currently tied up in a lawsuit. The board created a design subcommittee to try to soften the look of the proposed store and approved a layout that included several peaks in the store roof and a tower at one corner.

The guidelines the board has now adopted, which are to be posted on the town Web site, include photos of buildings in Lockport and elsewhere that the planners like and dislike, for the benefit of developers.

"These are just design guidelines. They're not mandatory," Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said. "It applies to new buildings and also to renovations and reuses."

Even before the formal adoption of the guidelines, the Planning Board had been enforcing the design law.

It insisted on some modifications to the colors and roof line of the canopy over the new gas station at the South Transit Road Tops Market and put a man who wanted to open a submarine sandwich shop in an existing block building on Junction Road through his paces before approving his plan.

"That's a perfect example where they reviewed it," Seaman said. "He had already done some painting on the building."

Forsey said he doesn't think the extra review will add time or cost to building projects.

"As a matter of fact, some developers came before the subcommittee and spoke in favor of it," Forsey said. "They said, 'If we're going to invest money in the Town of Lockport and have a good-looking building, we want to make sure that the other people have good-looking buildings, too.' "

Seaman said the guidelines apply townwide, but only to commercial buildings, not housing.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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