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Letter: Discretion has gone too far in Elmwood zoning variances

Discretion has gone too far in Elmwood zoning variances

Next time you get pulled over for going twice the speed limit – say it’s a 30 mph zone, but you’re going over 60 – try telling the cop he should exercise his discretion under the law, and just let you roll along. How far is that going to get you?

Still, that’s the traffic equivalent of the building variances that The News thinks should be fine under Buffalo zoning law for the very large structure proposed for the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues.

Sure, good zoning law has the possibility of variances built into it. So does practical application of the traffic law. That’s why the cartoon policeman famously asks, “where’s the fire?” when he pulls someone over.

In a general sense, on variances, The News is right. Discretion in applying a law is the right stance. But concretely, the developer at Elmwood and Forest wants in effect to get away with a special break, near-highway speeds on a commercial street. He wants to put up a 300-foot building where a 150-foot building is the legal neighborhood standard, to rise to four floors where only three are allowed, and to have no on-street retail where area standards and common sense mandate retail storefronts along the sidewalk.

The would-be developer must be telling the zoning cops that he is racing to a very hot fire, with babies and old ladies already jumping out the windows.

Maybe The News could offer its usual wise judgment, and indicate where it thought discretion and reasonable accommodation lay, as opposed to writing its editorial blank check for this mega-building.

Lots of people I know are neither loud talkers nor unrealistic purists, but believe that something pragmatic, reasonable and, yes, larger and profitable could be built at the current eyesore corner.

James A. Smith

Buffalo

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