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Petition needed for changing parking rules

Buffalo has no imminent plans to test changes to parking rules around the Elmwood Village but is open to doing so, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said Thursday.

Any proposed changes to parking rules in and around the Elmwood Village, or anywhere else in the city, have to come from the community through the petition process, Helfer said.

"They've got to make a recommendation to us of what they'd like to see," he said.

The issue of parking problems in the Elmwood Village has arisen recently due to a proposed mixed-use development at the site of what is now a parking lot on Elmwood Avenue. That project came before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, but no action was taken on a requested variance to allow more apartment units than permitted under city code.

Helfer's comments take a different tone than those at Wednesday's zoning meeting.

An aide to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto told the Zoning Board that Helfer has committed to implementing on a trial basis some parking changes on side streets in some areas of the Elmwood Village.

Current parking rules allow parking on only one side of most side streets during the day, and the test period would allow parking on both sides during the day, possibly starting at 11 a.m., Bradley Hamm told the board.

The declaration came during discussion of a proposal from the Benchmark Group to turn a parking lot at 766 Elmwood south of Auburn Avenue into a three-story, mixed-use building, a project that has stirred concerns about parking availability.

Helfer said his department is open to looking at potential parking changes, but he said he never used the words "pilot program" in recent talks about the Elmwood Village.

Decisions about changes will have to take into account safety issues, including whether emergency vehicles can fit down side streets with parking on both sides, Helfer said.

The Department of Public Works' Engineering Division plays an important role in that review, but the input of the mayor's office and the Council has to be part of the process, he said.

Any changes to parking would be seasonal in order to allow for snow removal in the winter, he added.

Also Wednesday, the Zoning Board:

* Approved variances that will allow large, illuminated signs to hang at the top of the Tishman Building on Lafayette Square, which the Hamister Group is turning into a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

* Approved variances that were part of a proposal to turn the former Fairfield Library at 1659 Amherst St. into five apartments and 1,100 square feet of office space.

David E. Pawlik, a partner in Creative Structures Services of Buffalo, received variances to change the use of the property, the yard-size requirements and the number of parking spaces.

Pawlik said he would like to begin construction by the middle or end of August.

* Rejected a request from Michael Burke, owner of the Hop Inn, to add an outdoor patio at the bar on Hopkins Street, just south of Tifft Street.

Several neighbors came to the meeting to speak out against the proposal, saying they had concerns about noise and garbage.

* Approved a variance to allow Gene McCarthy's on Hamburg Street to build an addition to house a small beer-brewing system.

* Took no action on a proposal from Kaleida Health for a variance to put up a second sign for the Highpointe on Michigan, a skilled nursing facility at 1031 Michigan Ave.