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Tonawanda considers two plans for city-owned land

City of Tonawanda residents on Tuesday night were presented with two distinct options for building new homes on nearly 13 acres of vacant city-owned land along Little League Drive.

A capacity crowd of about 160 residents in City Hall heard from two developers – David Homes and Brownstone Homes – interested in buying the land just north of Fletcher Street and south of Veterans Park. A third developer, Sinatra and Co., was also scheduled to present. But Mayor Rick Davis announced the company has since backed out.

David Stapleton, owner of David Homes, presented first during the public information session and proposed several concepts showing a mix of single-family, patio-style and “villas,” which are single-story and low-maintenance attached homes. The goal is to create a vibrant and walkable community, he said.

He said the villas, which are designed to be “step-free,” would meet a demand by residents who want to stay in the city but also downsize to smaller homes. “It provides a different form of homes in the City of Tonawanda than are existing today,” he said.

David Homes would pay for the infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer lines, Stapleton said. The homes would likely range from $200,000 to $300,000, with a median sale price of about $250,000, depending on the style of home built.

Meanwhile, Brownstone owner Bob Briceland proposed building about 40 custom single-family homes on individual lots for residents ranging from empty-nesters to first-time home buyers. Their ranch and two-story homes would begin at about 1,300 square feet and cost an average of $250,000, he said.

He presented three preliminary site plans showing the lots on roads, some of which end in a cul-de-sac. Briceland said Brownstone would be responsible for the infrastructure costs and would not seek a lower condo tax status for the homes.

“We love the property,” Briceland said. “We think it’s spectacular.”

Both developers said they were attracted to the land because of its desirable location near the Niagara River and the park. The land actually amounts to nearly 17 acres, but there are ongoing talks between city and school district officials about swapping four acres at Little League Drive for the land at the former Clint Small stadium on Main Street. Both sides are awaiting the results of phase II environmental studies on the two parcels.

There has been talk of building on the land for decades and it would be the first major housing development in the city since Niagara Shores townhomes in the late 1980s.

Davis said the Common Council would need three of five votes to issue preferred developer status to one of the companies, and four votes authorizing him to sell the land. Davis has also said he will follow up with a robo-call survey of residents following Tuesday’s session.