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Builder proposes a community of ‘villas’ on Tonawanda’s Little League Drive

Another area homebuilder has come forward with a concept plan for developing 17 acres of vacant, wooded land owned by the City of Tonawanda.

David Homes would build a community of “villas” – four single-story, ranch-style homes that are attached as one unit and share common walls – on the land along Little League Drive under the plan presented Tuesday to the Common Council.

“You’ve got a unique opportunity for us to build something where people want to be,” owner David Stapleton told the Council.

The concept, called “Riverwalk Villas,” is similar to what David Homes is building now in Hamburg, he said, where the 1,400- to 1,600-square-foot homes are selling for about $250,000 and up.

Each home has its own garage, and shares a “clubhouse” with an area for fitness, community gatherings and a pool, Stapleton said. Exterior maintenance is covered by a homeowners’ association.

“That’s the concept we have right now in Hamburg, here we may do something different depending on what the market study would tell us,” he said after the Council’s meeting. Stapleton said the homes he would build would appeal primarily to retired people looking to downsize from larger homes, or those who would otherwise move to warmer year-round climates.

“It’s an option that has become very popular in other parts of the country and we’re trying to bring that option here to Western New York,” he said.

The Council in February also heard a proposal by Brownstone Homes of Williamsville to build about 40 two-story and ranch-style homes in two phases on the land. Those homes would range in size from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet and in price from $250,000 to $300,000.

Both developers have said they are attracted to the parcel by its proximity to the Niagara River, schools, Veterans Park and other amenities.

Council members and Mayor Rick Davis are keenly interested in selling the land and adding it to the city’s tax rolls. But a major sticking point has been whether the developer would seek a condominium status tax break from New York State for the homes.

Stapleton deferred when asked if he would seek the condo tax status, noting it would depend on the economic feasibility of his plan. “I’m presenting a plan tonight,” he said. “I’m just asking you to keep an open mind on things.”

In other business at Tuesday’s special meeting, the Council unanimously approved annual compensation rates for city officials who will be elected in November.

The rates of $8,500 for each Council member and $10,000 for the Council president are unchanged. The city attorney’s salary will go up to $45,000 next year and increase by $1,000 in each of the next three years. The city treasurer’s salary will go up to $77,000 next year and increase by $2,000 in each of the next three years.

Council President Carl Zeisz said those raises were in line with previous hikes for the positions.