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Clarence blueberry farm's new owner wants to build houses there

The new owner of the Clarence Blueberries U-pick farm plans to build a subdivision of nine single-family homes on the property.

A concept plan filed with the town shows the proposed houses spread out on the 34-acre property on Shimerville Road north of Roll Road.

But neighbors say they're concerned about the loss of the blueberry patch and about the proposed construction of so many houses on the site.

"It's part of our lives. We moved here because of living in the country," said Adiba Shariff, whose home is surrounded on three sides by the farm. "We've been here 15 years. My children, myself, we all are part of the blueberries."

The Town Board is scheduled to review the plan at a work session prior to Wednesday's meeting.

Damian M. Baird, who last week spent $2.1 million to buy both the blueberry farm at 5685 Shimerville and the home immediately to the south, did not respond to messages seeking comment on his plans.

Baird purchased the two properties through Landd Development, a limited liability company. The purchase of 5685 Shimerville from Satnam and Rajinder Basra was divided into two transactions, according to deeds filed with the Erie County Clerk's Office.

Baird paid the Basras $1.47 million – $993,000 for about 9 acres that include the 5,200-square-foot home and a driveway on the property and $480,000 for the remaining 25 acres of land, said Town Assessor Albert Weber.

Clarence Blueberries U-pick farm sells for nearly $1 million

Satnam Basra developed the blueberry farm starting in 2005, and he planted the bushes on 8½ acres three years later. The farm, which now has about 18,000 blueberry bushes, opened to the public in 2012.

Rajinder Basra previously said Baird approached the Basras about buying their property after first taking an interest in the neighboring Shimerville Road home, which Baird's Landd Development ended up buying for $620,000. She said she thought Baird might keep the blueberry farm in operation but she didn't know what his plans were for the property.

Rajinder Basra said she learned Baird had filed plans to build the subdivision from a neighbor this week.

"It's his property. It's his choice," she said.

The concept plan for Baird's subdivision, which was filed by Metzger Engineering, calls for three of the new homes to front onto Shimerville, three more would be built in a new cul de sac and the other three would connect to the existing driveway that serves the sprawling property.

The concept plan shows lot sizes for the new houses ranging from 1.3 acres to 6.3 acres, although the largest lots include wetlands and a buffer zone. The plan does not detail the size of the proposed houses nor does it indicate how much the houses would sell for. Baird also hasn't said what he would do with the blueberry bushes.

James Callahan, the town's director of community development, said town officials will have to scrutinize the plan because the two existing houses on the properties don't have the required frontage onto Shimerville. The house on the neighboring parcel is surrounded by the Basras' property on three sides, with wetlands behind it, and has to use the Basras' driveway to reach Shimerville.

Now that the developer is proposing to build on the site, the town will have to take that pre-existing condition into consideration as it examines the project, Callahan said.

"It's going to be a very convoluted review," Callahan said.

Also, there is no sewer connection in that section of the town, where homes are served by septic systems, and that limits the level of development allowed.

It's early, but the plan for nine houses already is running into opposition from some neighbors.

Shariff said she and her family have grown to love the blueberry farm and they don't want to see it give way to a subdivision that would bring increased traffic. She said she first got an inkling that change was coming when she saw people surveying the farm property.

But she said when she first called the Basras, Satnam gave her the impression he was selling to a farmer who would keep the farm intact, and that eased her fears – until now.

"It's a surprise. We didn't know homes were coming," Shariff said. "We are not used to neighbors."

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