Williamsville residents sparred with the Village Board Tuesday during an informal public hearing on a plan to convert a former construction yard into apartments and townhouses.
It was one in a series of hearings the board plans to hold to allow residents to have input into Natale Development's plan to build 30 townhouses and a 112-unit apartment complex on five acres south of Main Street. The proposal is still winding its way through the Planning Board, which does not allow public participation at its meetings.
The proposed project would be located on the site of the former Herbert F. Darling construction company, which backs up to South Long Street, the village Department of Public Works, a park, a railroad museum and a former railroad line that cut diagonally through the village and is now a bike path.
Residents living near the site have expressed concerns about the increase population density and high volumes of traffic the project could bring to the neighborhood.
Harry Conomos, who lives on California Drive, across the street from the site raised concerns about Natale Development's desire to purchase from the village an adjacent 5-acre property used by public works. Mayor Brian Kulpa stressed that no purchase offer has come before the village and that the Village Board had no plans to transfer any property to the developer before it receives a recommendation on the project from the Planning Board.
A community plan developed by the village six years ago calls for high-density housing on the site, where the zoning was recently changed from commercial to residential to accommodate it. Kulpa noted that the village has limited space to expand, but still needs to grow its tax base like other communities. He said recent nationwide studies have shown that senior citizens and millennials are among demographics that prefer not to become traditional homeowners. To attract and retain them as residents of the village, more apartments and townhouses are needed, Kulpa said.
"The question that the community plan sought to address six years ago was, do we want to offer a different type of housing knowing that people were heading towards senior status and knowing that there were a group of people graduating at that point and entering the workforce?" Kulpa said.
"We don't," replied Dennis Hoban, a California Drive resident . "We would prefer to see houses built there and then those houses could be sold."
If residents in the neighborhood want less apartments and more town homes, "that's something we need to deal with," said Kulpa.