Plans for a $13 million hotel at the Northtown Center cleared a major hurdle Monday night after the Amherst Town Board narrowly approved a rezoning change required for the project to move forward.
The vote was 3-2.
Uniland Development Co. has proposed constructing a four-story, 105-room Hampton by Hilton hotel, with 115 parking spaces, at the ice rink complex off Millersport Highway.
The Town Board previously approved a memorandum of understanding with Uniland, which would construct and own the hotel and make lease payments to the town.
The amount of that payment depends on whether the town follows through on building a proposed fifth rink, according to the lease agreement, which was also approved Monday.
If the town does construct a fifth ice sheet, Uniland will pay the town $54,600 in each of the first 20 years, $65,520 in each of the next 20 years and $78,625 in each of the final 20 years.
If the town does not construct a fifth ice sheet at the Northtown Center within the first 20 years of the 60-year lease, the annual rent payment will stay at $54,600 for the full term.
Deputy Town Supervisor Steven D. Sanders said that cash flow will help support the facility financially, given that it operates at a deficit.
"By adding another dedicated income stream to the parcel would help the long-term viability of the Northtown Center," he said.
The town and Uniland also signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the town to use the hotel's swimming pool for swimming classes and exercise.
The Town Board on Monday overruled the opinion of the Planning Board, which in August recommended denying the rezoning change.
Several members of the Planning Board at that time said they thought Amherst already had too many hotels in the area surrounding the Northtown Center and the University at Buffalo's North Campus. They were reluctant to give up 3 acres of green space to make way for the hotel.
Amherst in the 1980s had four hotels, a number that has grown to 28 today with five under construction, according to the Amherst Fire Chiefs' Association. Uniland has said it would not build a previously approved hotel on Corporate Parkway if granted permission to build at the Northtown Center.
Uniland was the only developer that responded to the town’s request for proposals to build a hotel at the Northtown Center.
Uniland previously said it was interested in the Northtown Center site because the rink complex draws 1 million visitors annually, and a mid-scale hotel with a pool, restaurant and banquet facility only will make the center more attractive. The proximity to the students, faculty, staff and athletic competitions at the nearby UB North Campus also made the site appealing.
The proposed site of the hotel, at 1615 Amherst Manor Drive, is located in the southwestern corner of the town’s Audubon Recreation Complex. It required rezoning from recreation conservation to general business.
In exchange for the 3 acres of green space the town would lose at Northtown Center, Amherst would gain as parkland 26.6 acres of town-owned land between North French and Casey roads in the East Amherst Conservation Area through a process known as alienation.
A bill approving the alienation remains under consideration by the State Legislature and must also be approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said Town Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.