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Proposed townhome project at The Abbey faces zoning issues in Clarence

Owner Russell Salvatore Jr. wants to add eight townhouses with garages to The Abbey, his two-story project of upscale apartments and retail development on Transit Road that opened last year in Clarence.

But because it would exceed a zoning restriction of six units on the property, the plan is expected to come under scrutiny when it is presented to the Clarence Town Board at its work session on Wednesday

This is not the first time Salvatore has had to deal with zoning issues and controversy.

Controversial Transit Road project heads back to Clarence zoning board

The $2.5 million Abbey project was built using more than $100,000 in sales and mortgage tax breaks from the Clarence Industrial Development Agency. The agency approved the retail project under its adaptive reuse policies, even though a former structure had been torn down. That sparked a fight with Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, who said the action violated countywide policies.

Salvatore also needed a special exemption permit to build The Abbey, using a brick-vinyl hybrid on the sides of the building to complete the project at a reasonable cost and satisfy the Planning Board and residents.

Salvatore said he has had a good relationship with Clarence and has had success with The Abbey, his first retail project.

"It's what we wanted. All boutique, local businesses. That's pretty important to us. We didn't want a bunch of chain stores – and Clarence is big on boutique businesses," Salvatore said.

The Abbey's retail space includes Rebel Ride, a cycling studio; Taco Community Beer; and Village Designs, a clothing store. The eight two- and three-bedroom apartments there now are 1,700- to 2,000-square feet and were fully rented within months of opening.

Salvatore said the proposed two-story townhouses also will be upscale. He said they will be slightly smaller, at 1,600 to 1,700 square feet, but offer amenities such as more storage space, a garage and patios that look out onto a wooded area behind the property. They will be for rent, not for sale, he said.

Salvatore is the grandson of Russell Salvatore, the founder of Salvatore's Italian Gardens, at Transit and Genesee streets, which his father Joseph now owns, along with Salvatore's Garden Place Hotel. His grandfather owns Russell's Steaks, Chops and More and Salvatore's Grand Hotel at 6675 Transit Road. His cousin, Justin Bingel, owns Yolo Restaurant and Lounge at 5841 Transit Road.

"We've had a lot of success on Transit Road," Salvatore Jr. said.


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