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Town of Lockport seeks to lift ban on buildings taller than 40 feet in business zones

LOCKPORT – Sometimes, you just have to keep up with the neighbors.

The Town of Lockport, which may have lost out on a hotel built in neighboring Pendleton, is proposing to eliminate a decades-old zoning provision that bans buildings taller than 40 feet from its large business zones.

Under the new proposal, a developer could obtain a special-use permit to construct a structure as tall as 60 feet in a business zone.

The immediate cause of that proposal is the four-story, 72-room Hampton Inn, which opened this summer on the Pendleton side of South Transit Road. It couldn’t have been constructed on the Lockport side without obtaining a variance.

The $5.65 million hotel was built by Neelkanth Hotel LLC, a company formed by Ramesh Patel, owner of the Comfort Inn in the City of Lockport.

“They never even approached us,” said Marc R. Smith, the former town supervisor who this year became the town economic-development coordinator. “It never occurred to us that the height restriction might preclude developers from looking at our community.”

He said he doesn’t know of any projects in the pipeline for Lockport that might need a building taller than 40 feet.

The height restriction doesn’t apply in the town’s industrial zones. The Yahoo data center and the Lockport Energy Associates cogeneration power plant both are well above the 40-foot mark.

But most of the high-profile development areas in the town currently have a 35-foot building height restriction. That’s because they are zoned for small businesses only.

“Some (towns) have unlimited heights,” Town Planner Andrew C. Reilly said. “We have a 35-foot height restriction. Kind of silly in a major commercial area. As areas get more developed, you have to go up higher.”

An extensive package of zoning changes related to building height restrictions will be presented to the Town Board on Wednesday. The amendments, along with maps of the affected areas, are to be posted on the town website in advance of a public information meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday in Town Hall.

“I’d be interested to hear what the public has to say,” Supervisor Mark C. Crocker said, adding that the town considers itself pro-business. “This is a change that would allow us to do that – be more friendly businesswise,” Crocker said.

Reilly said the reason for requiring special-use permits, instead of guaranteeing a builder the right to go as high as 60 feet, is that some of the town’s business zones are close to residential areas. A permit could be rejected, especially in those pockets. But along South Transit, Reilly said, a height permit would be more likely to be approved.

The surviving small-business zones scattered across the town would continue to have a 35-foot height restriction.


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