Two big development projects at Gates Circle and Waterfront Village received key variances from the Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals, enabling them to proceed toward final approval, but a third one in the Elmwood Village was shot down amid neighborhood and political opposition.
The board backed variance requests for townhouse projects by Uniland Development Co. on the Park Lane Restaurant site at 33 Gates Circle and by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. for its West End development at 240-260 Lakefront Blvd.
But the Zoning Board rejected applications by Ellicott Development Co. to put garages in front of a pair of new single-family homes to be constructed at 619 and 621 W. Delavan Ave., effectively killing the project in its current form since it would violate the city's Green Code. A separate request for a 16-space parking lot across the street on Elmwood was also denied.
Ellicott CEO William Paladino said the developer "may just redesign site in a way that we just don’t need any variances and proceed." But the result will be 20 more cars parking on the street rather than off, because the need for cars won't go away, he added.
"The Elmwood area will never be dense enough to alone support the retailers and businesses and Elmwood so they need suburbanites to patronize occasionally to help drive their revenues," Paladino said. "Really no one wins here even if we do rehab the houses."
Uniland is planning to build a three-story building with seven units and a two-story building with five units on two connected parcels. The project won the backing of the Lancaster/Melbourne Block Club, which noted that the garages will be in back.
Ciminelli plans 20 three-story townhouse units in four buildings on an L-shaped parcel, with the buildings set back 115 feet from the water. Opponents want 130 feet, and remain unhappy with the current plan that they say will obstruct their waterfront views, but that was not the subject of the Zoning Board vote.
Both projects will now be considered by the city Planning Board on July 30, before the city agencies take a monthlong summer break.
Meanwhile, Ellicott, owned by Carl and William Paladino, wants to knock down a pair of aging duplex structures, just behind its new 905 Elmwood Ave., mixed-use project. It says the homes have deteriorated too much to renovate, and are not worth saving when compared to the rents it could get. Instead, it proposed building two new three-story, single-family homes in their place, but with two-car garages in front instead of setting them back 20 feet as required by the new zoning code.
"If these houses were in condition we would absolutely save them, but given their condition we felt it gave us a opportunity to help the parking problem and not by creating a parking lot but by creating a little less density on these two properties," Paladino said.
The Preservation Board rejected the developer's request for demolition, but its vote is advisory and not binding on the project. However, the zoning request sparked a vocal protest by several neighborhood leaders, preservationists and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo.
The opponents argued earlier this week that Ellicott should first try to preserve, renovate and reuse the buildings – which are considered "contributing structures" to the Elmwood Historic District East – but at a minimum must comply with the Green Code without seeking an exception.
The ZBA agreed, unanimously denying the application, citing the "negative and adverse impact on the community and character of the neighborhood."