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Town of Amherst could end up with contested Gramercy Park acreage, after all

The 60 acres near Casey and Transit roads in East Amherst have long been at the center of a tug of war.

It was once eyed for an upscale subdivision; the Town of Amherst said no, and the developer sued. The town offered to buy the land, but the two sides never struck a deal.

Now, Amherst may end up with the property, after all.

The town is trying to work out a land swap with developer Elliot Lasky for the property at 9434 Transit Road, known as Gramercy Park.

Amherst would keep the parcel as open space and for use as a drainage area to help control flooding in that part of town during wet weather, said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

Much of the property is already wetlands.

“One of the things residents have always been concerned about is they want to see Amherst stay as green as possible,” said Planning Director Eric W. Gillert, “so we have acquired a number of properties that complement this parcel.”

In return, the town would trade five acres of open space that it owns along Campbell Boulevard.

This would allow the developer to add 10 building lots next to the Lake Forest North subdivision on Penny Lane, adjacent to Interstate 990.

But the swap will be tricky.

The Penny Lane property offered up by the town is designated as public “parkland.”

To swap that for Gramercy, Amherst would need authorization from the State Legislature, a process commonly referred to as “parkland alienation.”

Furthermore, a different parcel of equal value to Penny Lane would have to be substituted as municipal parkland, Gillert explained.

Twenty acres that the town owns at 1265 Smith Road should fit that bill, he said.

Amherst has already started the ball rolling by asking its local delegation of state lawmakers to consider a parkland alienation bill. That process tends to take about a year, Gillert said, but the town is hoping to do it in less time.

“Once we have Penny Lane removed as parkland, then we’d be free to negotiate with the owners of Gramercy,” Gillert said.

If the swap eventually occurs, it would bring to resolution the years-long Gramercy saga.

Lasky once planned to build 57 upscale homes on the site, which was designated on some town maps as part of the former Casey Road swamps.

The town, however, declared a building moratorium in 2003 because of the site’s proximity to sinking homes in the Pines and Pines East neighborhoods.

Lasky unsuccessfully sued Amherst for making his property undevelopable, while the town tried and failed to purchase the property from Lasky in 2006 and 2007.

His brother currently holds title to the Gramercy Park property, but Lasky is authorized to negotiate the deal, according to those familiar with the situation.

The two sides already have held preliminary talks, which included the developer’s request to retain an acre of the property to build a single-family home.