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Muir Woods project approved by Amherst Planning Board

The Amherst Planning Board on Thursday gave the go-ahead to Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s ambitious, $50 million proposal to build 133 single-family homes on its Muir Woods property in the town's northwest corner.

The Planning Board's 5-1 vote to approve the developer's site-plan application, and 4-2 vote that found the project would not harm the environment, followed extensive debate Thursday and at the board's August meeting.

Some neighbors of the project have warned of its potential effect on traffic and safety in the area, and implored the Planning Board to reject the proposal -- or force the developer to make substantial changes to the project.

"It could have been built anywhere in Amherst. It's not unique," said board member Mary Shapiro, who sought further study of the project but was outvoted by the board's majority.

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s proposed site for a 133-home housing subdivision at Muir Woods in Amherst.

The Planning Board had voted to stall action on the project at its Aug. 17 meeting until further study was conducted on the subdivision's effect on traffic.

The Planning Board that night sent the Muir Woods development to the Town Board. But the Town Board on Sept. 5 voted to pass the project back to the Planning Board and no additional traffic study was conducted.

Ciminelli Real Estate had studied the project's traffic effect in March, and that report was reviewed by officials at the town, county and state levels.

The Muir Woods 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 -- leaving development on other portions of the property for later.

The homes in "The Preserve at Muir Woods" would sit on a cul-de-sac and many of them would line a 41-acre lake at the southeastern corner of the parcel.

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.

Twelve residents spoke in opposition at a 75-minute public hearing at the August Planning Board meeting, and most objected to the Campbell access road, citing concerns about existing heavy traffic on North French and Campbell.

They said they worried the new route into the subdivision would be used as a cut-through to avoid frequent long delays at the North French-Campbell intersection.

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.

Sean Hopkins, Ciminelli's attorney, at the August meeting noted the project's long history and the developer's extensive efforts to meet the guidelines set by various agencies.

However, 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.

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