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Town Board rejects rezoning for Amherst apartment project

A 24-unit apartment complex planned for East Amherst has stalled after the Amherst Town Board on Monday night voted against rezoning the project site.

The Green Organization wants to construct two, 12-unit apartment buildings and eight detached garages at 4400 N. French Road, just west of Transit Road, on 2.7 acres of land. The property is now zoned for suburban agricultural use and required rezoning to multifamily residential for the project to move forward.

The Amherst Planning Board in January recommended the Town Board approve the zoning change, even though Bruce Wisbaum, manager of the nearby Autumn Creek Apartments, and two residents spoke in opposition during a public hearing. The Planning Board found the plan was compatible with the town's comprehensive plan and is consistent with uses of other other neighboring properties.

Monday night, Jeffery Palumbo, the Barclay Damon attorney who represents the developer, made the same argument to the Town Board, pointing out the density of the residential development.

Then the board heard from Wisbaum, who said hundreds of tenants at his apartment complex are opposed to the project. He said there are too many accidents on North French with the traffic already, and cited a number of other reasons why the rezoning should be denied. But it was clear he didn't like the idea of having competition for tenants so close to his own buildings.

Council Member Ramona Popowich, who lives in the area, said she was concerned about building on the flood plain for Ransom Creek. "We'll never stop the flooding, but we've got to mitigate it," she said. Palumbo said all of north Amherst is a flood plain and they wouldn't be building on the flood way.

Palumbo also said the town can't control competition through zoning and his client wouldn't build there if he didn't think he could rent out the units. "It's our risk, but we think we know what we're doing," he said.

In the end, the vote was 4-1 to deny the rezoning. Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein cast the only vote to allow the project to proceed.

Palumbo did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday morning seeking comment on where the Green Organization will go from here in light of the rejection.

News Staff Reporter Joseph Popiolkowski contributed to this report.

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