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Northtown Auto's purchase of Amherst synagogue to ease Dent's parking crunch

Northtown Automotive Cos. plans to convert a synagogue on Getzville Road in Amherst into administrative offices and an employee training center and to lease 300 parking spaces at the site to the nearby Dent Neurologic Institute.

The auto dealership revealed new details about its initial redevelopment plans for the property as the Amherst Town Board on Monday voted 4-1 to approve the rezoning that's required before the congregation at Temple Beth Tzedek can sell its longtime home.

The temple and the dealership have been in talks for months over a sale of the 9-acre property at 621 Getzville Road, off Sheridan Drive, next to the Youngmann Expressway. Temple Beth Tzedek is seeking to sell the property because it has merged with another congregation, B'nai Shalom, which has a synagogue on North Forest Road, south of West Klein Road.

The merged congregation is holding services at both locations, on Getzville Road and on North Forest Road, until the sale of the Getzville Road property goes through, a synagogue representative previously said.

Eventually, the Temple Beth Tzedek congregation will move to North Forest Road and use the proceeds from the sale of the Getzville Road site to pay for an expansion of the existing synagogue there. The parties have not revealed the sale price.

Northtown had not said much about its plans for the property.

That's because the dealership had not yet put together a long-term plan for the site, according to Sean W. Hopkins, Northtown's attorney.

The Town Board had voted at its Feb. 6 meeting to adjourn the rezoning request until it received more information from Northtown about its plans for the site. Hopkins sought to address that concern in his letter.

An attorney for the synagogue, Steven B. Bengart, also wrote to the town to seek its support for the rezoning. In his letter, Bengart said the sale would place the property back onto the tax rolls, since it previously was exempt from property taxes because it was owned by a religious organization.

Hopkins said the dealership would take over and renovate the temple building on the property for administrative and training offices. Northtown also would create and lease a parking lot with 300 spaces for Dent Neurologic Group, although some of the spaces would be located in a strip in the back of the dealership's existing property at 3890 Sheridan Drive. The medical practice would have a 10-year lease.

The parking would sit between the former temple, to the west, and Northtown Kia, Mazda and Subaru, to the east, at 3890 Sheridan. Dent Neurologic Institute sits just to the east at 3980 Sheridan, where parking spaces are at a premium.

"The 300 spots are going to do wonders to the parking problem we've been experiencing at Dent Tower," said Deputy Supervisor Steven D. Sanders. "How they were able to build what they built back there without enough parking, I don't know."

Currently, many Dent employees park across Sheridan Drive at Excelsior Orthopaedics or on town roads, which Sanders said was "detrimental" to the neighborhood.

"I think this is going to be a vast improvement by cutting down on people crossing Sheridan Drive," he said.

Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki cast the sole vote against the rezoning, saying she preferred to wait two weeks until the board's next meeting to have time to review additional correspondence received Monday about the project.

News Staff Reporter Joseph Popiolkowski contributed to this report.

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