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Muir Woods stalled by Amherst Planning Board

The Amherst Planning Board on Thursday night voted to stall action on Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s planned Muir Woods subdivision until further study is conducted on the project's effect on traffic in the area.

The move is likely to please neighbors who came out to Thursday's board meeting to criticize the developer's plan for the 133-home subdivision in the town's northwest corner.

"This mindless development needs to stop," Judy Ferraro, a resident and regular critic of what she considers overdevelopment in Amherst, said prior to the vote.

The 4-3 vote came at the urging of board member Mary Shapiro, who asked the Planning Board to send the Muir Woods application back to the Town Board for a new traffic study.

Ciminelli revives long-dormant Muir Woods project in Amherst

On Friday, Ciminelli Real Estate officials pointed out that they produced a traffic study in March that was reviewed by the Amherst Traffic Safety Board, Erie County Department of Public Works and the state Department of Transportation.

"That said, we will move forward and work diligently to coordinate with the Town Board to achieve resolution and ultimate commencement of our project," Anne Duggan, a Ciminelli spokeswoman, said in an email.

The Planning Board on Thursday was considering the project's environmental effect and a site plan application.

The property sat vacant for 17 years under Ciminelli's ownership, until the company unveiled its latest plans earlier this year.

The company, with Ryan Homes, proposes building the 133 single-family homes on 46 acres on the east side of the 326-acre site bounded by the Lockport Expressway, Sweet Home Road, North French Road and Campbell Boulevard.

The project, "The Preserve at Muir Woods," has an estimated price tag of $50 million.

The homes sit on a cul-de-sac and many of them line a 41-acre lake at the southeastern corner of the parcel. Ciminelli would establish a homeowner's association that would own and maintain the lake.

Access to the property would come through Lynette Lane, from the north, off North French Road, and from Campbell Boulevard to the east. The property is zoned appropriately for single-family homes.

The Amherst Planning Board adjourned the site plan application at its last meeting, in June, until Thursday's meeting, as it awaited comment from state environmental regulators.

Twelve residents spoke in opposition at a 75-minute public hearing Thursday, and most objected to the Campbell access road, citing concerns about existing heavy traffic on North French and Campbell. They said they worry the new route into the subdivision would be used as a cut-through to avoid frequent long delays at the North French-Campbell intersection.

"All this does is put people's lives in danger continuously," said Glen Stender, a Campbell resident, one of a number of speakers who referred to the mix of high-speed traffic and property owners, pedestrians and bicyclists who use the crowded corridor.

The Town Board had directed Ciminelli to try to acquire land from the Williamsville Central School District to build the access road from Campbell, to the east, after traffic planners told Ciminelli not to provide an access road into the subdivision from the south or west. The developer has an agreement in place to do that.

"This is what we've been left with," said Sean Hopkins, Ciminelli's attorney, citing the project's long history and the developer's extensive efforts to meet the guidelines set by various official agencies.

Neighbors along Campbell urged the Planning Board to scrap the developer's current plans to order Ciminelli to build a connection into the subdivision from the John James Audubon Parkway, and the 990, to the south.

"We need no additional traffic on Campbell," said Carl Zebrowski, who lives on Campbell. "The 990 is there. Let it be used."


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