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Developer amends Amherst apartment proposal in response to resident comments

A Williamsville developer has filed new plans with the Town of Amherst for a project of upscale apartments on Sweet Home Road after taking into account concerns raised by neighbors of the site.

The amended version of the project at 2360 Sweet Home Road, located just north of North Ellicott Creek Road and the Lockport Expressway interchange, calls for rezoning more of the 12-acre site, adds six apartment units to the 79 units in the original proposal and reconfigures the layout of the buildings on the property to create more distance between the apartments and neighbors.

Robert A. Savarino last month submitted plans to build two, three-story apartment buildings, along with six, single-story garage buildings, on seven acres of the nearly 12-acre parcel. That portion of the property is zoned for office buildings and Savarino was asking the Town Board to rezone the seven acres to multi-family residential.

In a new application filed with the town Planning Department this month, Savarino's RAS Development asked that another acre currently zoned suburban agricultural also be rezoned multi-family residential, bringing the total rezoning request to eight acres.

The project has grown in size, said Ellen M. Kost, an associate planner with the town, as the developer reconfigured the project and reshaped its boundaries.

Savarino had brought the project before the town Planning Board in January, but withdrew it before board members could vote on whether to recommend the rezoning to the Town Board. He did this because he said he wanted to make some changes to the plans in light of comments he heard at a recent meeting with neighbors.

For one, residents along North Ellicott Creek Road wanted one of the buildings shifted farther north, away from them if possible, and Savarino has done that in his amended plan, Kost said.

The setback there between the closest apartment building and the neighbors' properties has grown from 111 feet to 222 feet, said Sean Hopkins, Savarino's attorney. The developer also has increased the amount of permanent open space on the parcel, from 4.76 acres to 5.2 acres, Hopkins said.

"The input received to date has resulted in improvements to the project layout and we will continue to be proactive in considering input from all interested parties as the project review process moves forward," he said.

However, Savarino missed a deadline to file the amended plan in time for it to be printed as a legal notice in the Amherst Bee, so the notice for the public hearing for the Feb. 16 Planning Board meeting doesn't reflect the developer's changes. The board will have to adjourn the request to hold another, properly notified public hearing on the amended plan in March, Kost said.

There is a small office complex, called Sweet Home Commons, that primarily hosts medical-related businesses and practices on another portion of the property. The offices would remain in place and North Forest Office Space will continue to own and operate them.

The portion that Savarino wants to redevelop is cleared and shovel ready. If the project wins the necessary approvals, construction could begin in the summer and be completed next year.

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