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Rezoning needed for flag football sports arena proposed for Lancaster

A Lancaster sports bar wants nearly nine acres of its land rezoned on Wehrle Drive to pave the way for an enclosed sports arena to house its popular flag football league games, as well as year-round soccer and lacrosse games.

Angry Buffalo @ The Rose Garden is petitioning the Lancaster Town Planning Board on Wednesday to have 8.6 acres spread over four parcels rezoned to general business from the current residential designation for the nearly $2 million project encompassing a 26,400-square-foot structure, parking and lighting improvements.

Co-owner Joe David said the tavern also plans to “open up the door to surrounding townships” such as Clarence, Lancaster and Amherst for high school-aged youth and area soccer clubs to provide another venue for their sports play. Aside from adult leagues for flag football and volleyball, the bean-bag game known as Corn Hole, also is gaining in popularity, he said.

“Currently, we do not have any indoor space other than our bar facility,” said David, who jointly owns the bar with Joshua Bruzgul.

The tavern has a storied history, dating to the 1920s, through the Prohibition era before becoming a German restaurant in the 1940s for about a 50-year stretch. It has functioned as a sports bar since 2010, offering adult recreational sports and events such as formal parties.

The neighborhood restaurant wants to build the covered athletic field on the south side of Wehrle Drive between Transit and Harris Hill roads in the northern section of Lancaster, bordering Clarence.

The project has been in the works for about a year. Last fall, the Planning Board gave it the informal nod to refine its plan. Then two months ago, town planners tabled the site plan to take a hard look at lighting, land surveying, and stormwater prevention measures.

But now attention is focused on the rezoning, given the large acreage and proximity of the site to a neighborhood.

“When it’s a rezone, we’re going to take that very seriously. We have to determine whether there’s a benefit to the town as a whole, and does it fit the master plan,” Lancaster Planning Board Chairman Neil Connelly said Tuesday. “It’s an important decision. It can affect the character of the neighborhood. We’re adjoining Clarence and that is important.”

Equally concerning, Connelly said, is rezoning such a large site and what that could mean in the future.

“I think what we worry about is the whole nearly nine acres becoming general business and what does that mean down the line,” Connelly said. “Right now, it might be just be a little flag football arena. But down the line, it could have other ramifications.”

David said current plans do not call for any expansion of athletic facilities. A facelift for the front of the restaurant to improve its appearance and make it more inviting is in the works.

The Planning Board could act on the rezoning request Wednesday, but it may not since some board members will be absent. The Town Board has the final say.

“There are concerns because it abuts a residential area,” said Councilman John Abraham Jr., liaison to the Planning Board.

The site, however, has had a long history of outdoor use including car shows and other sporting events, Abraham noted. Even so, he said that adequate buffering may be necessary.

There would be a handful of remaining fields in addition to the flag football building. The restaurant is a non-conforming use in a residential zone, but its operation was grandfathered years ago.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Matt Fischione said the sports leagues at the bar/restaurant are growing and noted their flag football league has become popular.

He noted that with a soccer complex to the east of the Angry Buffalo @ The Rose Garden location, and a golf dome to the north, it is a growing sports activity area in the town.

“If you look at the area, it’s kind of like the sports area,” Fischione said.


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