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Neighbors opposed to senior apartments on Youngs Road in Amherst cite wetlands

Senior citizen apartments proposed for Youngs Road in Amherst have been given the go-ahead by town planners.

But neighborhood opponents – concerned about increased traffic, a loss of green space and drainage problems – are hoping there’s something on the site that would stop the project: wetlands.

Site plans for a two-story senior apartment building on Youngs, south of Renaissance Drive and north of Treebrooke Court, were approved last week by the Amherst Planning Board.

The 5½-acre parcel has a lot of vegetation and trees, but the Planning Board declared that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment.

Neighborhood opponents, however, insist more than half of the property is wetlands containing natural channels that allow water to flow into Amherst Ditch No. 4 and eventually empty into Ellicott Creek. Destroying the wetlands, they say, would have a huge negative impact on the environment in this neighborhood. They have statements from two scientists supporting their claim.

Opponents believe the property needs to be regulated by the Army Corp of Engineers and have asked the agency to step in.

“We’re hoping we can get the [U.S.] Army Corps of Engineers to look at the new evidence we submitted and find in our favor before they start developing the land,” said Patrick Welch, president of the neighborhood group Protect Amherst Life Association.

This development battle has been ongoing for several months.

The land at 1055 Youngs Road is properly zoned for apartments and was originally targeted for three, three-story apartment buildings with a total of 99 units, as well as 76 attached and detached garages.

But days after residents came to Amherst officials to voice their opposition to the project, the developer pulled the request for town variances needed for the apartments.

That was last September.

The owner of the property, Michael Jordan of Redtek Development, returned with a scaled-back plan based on neighbors’ concerns that the original project was too dense and buildings too tall, explained Sean Hopkins, attorney for the developer.

Revised plans call for a U-shaped apartment building with a total of 59 units. There are enough parking spaces for 137 vehicles, 47 of which will be arranged in garages. The site plan was ultimately approved by the Planning Board by a 6 to 1 vote last week.

The developer has been open with the residents, Welch said. And if the neighborhood is going to lose this fight, Welch said he would rather be looking out at one, two-story building rather than three, three-story buildings.

But the neighborhood will give it one last-ditch effort to prevent construction from moving forward.

“We’re being pleasantly persistent with the corps and asking them to review this project – as soon as possible,” Welch said.