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In Amherst, new apartments and townhouses – but also some single-family homes

A subdivision near Park Country Club, a 40-unit complex of apartments and townhouses near CrossPoint Business Park and 196 units of student housing near the University at Buffalo North Campus are seeking approval from the Amherst Planning Board.

They are the newest housing proposals in a town where residential development has grown slowly in recent years. Town planners have approved far more multifamily developments as builders have struggled to find parcels where large subdivisions are viable.

"We're running out of land," said Ellen Kost, the town's assistant planning director. "There's not a lot people can do in Amherst."

For example, the Planning Board gave final approval to 208 residential units of all kinds in 2016, 240 units in 2017 and 285 units last year, but only 48 lots from that three-year period were for single-family homes. That single-family total does not include two large, long-delayed residential developments that won the board's final backing in 2018.

The vast majority of that activity is student housing, senior housing and condominiums and townhouses.

Two of the new developments fit that recent trend.

Landmark Properties of Athens, Ga., wants to build 196 units of low-density student housing on a nearly 13-acre property at 1185 Sweet Home, between Rensch and Maple roads, according to documents submitted to the Amherst Planning Department.

Landmark would construct 18 buildings, including 10,400 square feet of commercial space, a clubhouse and a pool. The property last year received the necessary rezoning to allow the project to proceed and the Planning Board now is reviewing the site plan.

Two companies that share the same ownership are moving forward with plans for new housing.

Morgan Property Management Group plans four, two-story buildings, with 40 total apartment units, at 3340 Millersport Highway near North French Road. Morgan attorney Sean Hopkins said the development should appeal to employees who work in the massive nearby CrossPoint office complex.

The property is vacant and zoned appropriately for the multifamily development, Hopkins said, and he doesn't expect it will generate much backlash from neighbors.

"We're really not near many people here," he said.

Morgan Homes of Western New York is behind a 12-lot subdivision planned for 4774 and 4780 Sheridan Drive, between North Forest and Hopkins roads, which also has the required zoning classification.

Morgan Homes plans higher-end, single-family houses on the property, which is now home to a tree farm, said attorney Corey Auerbach.

"It's a piece of developable land in a desirable location," Auerbach said.

The two Morgan companies are owned by Jim Warren and they have no connection to Robert C. Morgan, the Rochester developer whose activities in this area have come under the scrutiny of federal investigators.

All three developments are on this week's Planning Board agenda.

Looking back over the past three years, new subdivisions like the one planned by Morgan Homes are rare in Amherst, the region's largest suburb, according to data from the Planning Department.

In 2016, for example, of the 208 units of new residential housing approved by the Planning Board, just 10 were single-family lots. The rest were 90 apartments – including 74 senior apartments – 60 townhouses and 48 condo units.

The exceptions to this trend were two major subdivisions that took years before they received final approval in 2018.

One was the $50 million, 133-lot Muir Woods subdivision planned by Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation at North French Road and Campbell Boulevard.  The second was M.J. Peterson's 139-lot Briar Hollow subdivision on Tonawanda Creek Road.

This year might see an uptick in subdivision approvals, Kost said, with three projects totaling 117 lots awaiting final approval from town officials.

The town is seeing more developments that fill in the space between existing subdivisions, as larger parcels are harder to come by, she said.

The Amherst Building Department keeps its own data on residential developments that have received building permits.

Work began on 676 residential units in 2016 and 727 units in 2017 before falling to 257 units last year.

Of the 1,660 total, just 231, or 14 percent, were single-family houses or duplexes, the data show.

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