It's common for people to be unhappy when someone comes along and wants to build houses on previously undeveloped land.
James Ostroff isn't just complaining. He's putting his money where his mouth is to stop a planned $10 million, 25-house subdivision near his home in the hamlet of Bowmansville in Lancaster. But if he's going to succeed, he's going to need a lot more mouths and lot more money.
Ostroff, who staged a one-man protest last week in front of the headquarters of Natale Builders, said he will contribute $10,000 toward the purchase of the 9.5 acre property and is asking other like-minded people to join him.
“I’m 75, and I’m not going to be here much longer,” the retired UPS driver said. “This is for future generations, so why don’t we as a community purchase the property?"
The subdivision by Natale Builders would be constructed on a site bordered by East Home, Redlein and Stutzman roads, plus a car dealership to the north on Genesee Street. The land parcel proposed for development is owned by the Schmitt family, who also owned Schmitt’s Garage at 5255 Genesee, which, over the years, became Schmitt’s Audi Volkswagen. It was sold in 2018 to Towne Auto Group.
Timothy Schmitt was not available for comment, and a Natale spokesman declined to disclose the cost of the property transaction, but business owners in the area estimate the value of the undeveloped parcel at $30,000 per acre, or between $250,000 and $300,000.
Plans for the subdivision were submitted to the Lancaster Planning Board in July 2018 and February 2019, said Neal Connelly, the board's chairman.
Connelly said a majority of board members expressed concern over the proposed project’s density, noting environmental impacts, drainage issues, the presence of wetlands and additional traffic.
"But the problem is, that land is zoned correctly, so it’s difficult to tell them no,” he said.
Attorneys for Natale Builders filed the traffic, drainage and wetland studies and wildlife habitat assessment in 2019, according to Earl V. Wells III, spokesman for Natale Builders. The consultants concluded the proposed subdivision would not have an adverse impact, he said.
Natale has in the past worked with residents who oppose its developments. In October 2018, an agreement over a $40 million subdivision on 57 acres on New Road in East Amherst was reached after nearly two years of discussions that included a protest petition and incidents of trespassing and egging. As part of the compromise, Natale agreed to install a sidewalk, leave one lot open, shift the location of a road and improve drainage.
Ostroff purchased his house on Stutzman in the mid-1990s for about $95,000. He said he sees the community as the last hope to preserve the green space, and he will wage a door-to-door campaign seeking support from his neighbors.
“I’m going to knock on every single door in the immediate areas and ask for a financial commitment,” said Ostroff. “I’m not looking for any checks, but everyone has a stake in this. This is the only way, because if this developer gets turned down, another will step in.”
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