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Growing Amherst church looking to double in size

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The Well Buffalo

TheWELLbuffalo Church on Dodge Road in Amherst.

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An Amherst church formed by the merger of two congregations is growing so fast that it needs to nearly double in size, with plans for a new 500-seat sanctuary.

The church, theWELLbuffalo, wants to construct a single-story 13,960-square-foot addition to its current 16,000-square-foot facility at 995 Dodge Road. Located on 7.93 acres just east of the intersection with Millersport Highway, the existing building was constructed in the 1960s and was formerly home to Bethel Baptist Church before Bethel and theWELLbuffalo merged. But the congregation is outgrowing its present capacity.

"There is a lot of excitement among the congregants of the church about these improvements," said attorney Corey Auerbach of Barclay Damon, who represented the church before the Amherst Planning Board on Thursday.

The church plans to add the new sanctuary to replace its current space, which Auerbach said is "necessary to keep this vibrant church growing." The expansion also includes more activity space, more parking and a 900-square-foot, one-story garage for storage. The new parking would be located off Haussauer Road.

The addition would be a prefabricated building that the church will purchase, but officials were able to design it to match the look of the current building, including about 9 feet of face brick along the base of the exterior, with white metal paneling above and vertical metal-clad materials to create the look of columns. A porte cochere – or covered entrance large enough for vehicles to pass through – is also being constructed.

The church already received two zoning variances for parking and landscaping but needs another for the materials. Still, Planning Board members were skeptical about the design and tabled their decision for a month.

"It looks like a pole barn to me, so I just wish it fit more with the neighborhood characteristics," said board member Brittanylee Penberthy.

In other action, the board approved modifications to the Amherst Community Solar project at 595 Schoelles Road, on a 21.5-acre site north of the I-990.

Next month, the board expects to consider project proposals by Severyn Development and Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., related to the sprawling Muir Woods property just north of Dodge Road and the I-990 highway. Both were scheduled for review Thursday, but the applicants asked for more time.

Severyn is planning to develop Sawyer's Landing on part of the Muir Woods property at 1081 North French Road. Plans for the mixed-use project have evolved slightly to feature 206 new residences as well as 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 505 parking spaces. The site will be subdivided into 52 parcels.

Specifically, the project envisions two four-story mixed-use buildings with 15,000 square feet of commercial space and 50 apartments in each, plus 47 two-family town homes on individual lots and two single-story patio-style apartment buildings with six units in each. The project will be completed in three or four phases, through July 2024.

Ciminelli and Ryan Homes are seeking site plan approval for another eight residential lots on 1.8 acres of the 14.39-acre parcel at 520 Campbell Boulevard. The detached single-family homes — which will face Sierra Drive off Campbell — are part of the developers' larger $50 million Preserve at Muir Woods housing development, which will involve 133 homes on 46 acres south of North French Road, north of the I-990 and east of Campbell.

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