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Hamburg Planning Board directs a positive declaration to be written for proposed Sherwood Meadows Apartments

HAMBURG — Planning Consultant Andrew Reilly walked the town of Hamburg Planning Board and audience through items listed on an environmental assessment form, to assist the board in determining what potentially large impacts would be caused by the proposed Sherwood Meadows Apartments complex.

During the board’s Sept. 4 meeting, Reilly said that the board needed to “do some level of analysis” on potential problem areas.

In the area of the project’s impact on land, Reilly said that, as the proposed area has high groundwater conditions, this could be an area of concern, but added that “a lot of Western New York has high groundwater conditions.”

The project already contains one existing storm water pond, with a second included in the plans. “These are designed in according to [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] standards,” Reilly said.

Sean Hopkins of Hopkins & Sorgi, PLLC spoke on behalf of the applicant, who Hopkins said is attempting to avoid building on the wetlands. “Less than 1/10 acre” will be affected by the proposed project, a number Hopkins said is below the nationwide permit.

The board also discussed the aesthetics of the proposed project, which would be made up of two-story structures. According to the developer, the section of the property that abuts residential areas will include the smallest structures.

“The parking area must be screened from the residential neighborhood,” Reilly said. “I am most concerned about the people butting up to the site.”

Member Sasha Yerkovich, who took over as leader of the proceedings in Chairman Peter Reszka’s absence, said that she felt the developers had “done their best, aesthetically.”

The board focused on transportation going and coming from the proposed project. Reilly said that the completed traffic study was done in accordance with the standard traffic engineering manual.

During the board’s Aug. 21 meeting, Rob Pidanick of Nussbaumer & Clarke said that, at full capacity, the project would generate 56 additional vehicular trips in the morning and 79 in the evenings.

“These [numbers] are being generated by these 128 units at peak hour,” Reilly said. “But that’s not the only traffic,” he pointed out, adding that a total estimated 851 trips, including those made by mail carriers, visitors, etc., would be generated by the project, per day.

Reilly said that the impact on the nearby residential streets had not been studied. The traffic study looked at the three major nearby intersections. “There was no significant impact on those systems,” Reilly said. “We don’t know where those cars go. No computer model will tell us that.”

Yerkovich said that she would like to find out what the impact would be to the local roads.

Board Member August Geraci said that he spent a morning staked out in the residential neighborhood near the proposed construction zone. “I stopped counting at 190 [cars],” he said. “There are only two ways basically to get out of there. A lot of streets have only two stop signs that should be four-ways. One street had no signs. That traffic issue will impact the exiting development; we’re talking about adding 60 cars to the existing 190.”

Reilly said that he agreed traffic was one of the largest issues to consider, with the Sherwood Meadows Apartments. “There are plans to signalize [the intersection of] Camp and Howard,” he said. “Unfortunately, they won’t install it until it’s warranted, but the equipment is already in the ground.”

The town’s traffic safety advisory board members will be in attendance at the next planning board meeting.

Reilly also broached the idea of noise and said that, due to the long-term nature of the project and the five – seven years of proposed construction, this could be an issue. “Mitigations will be put in place for this,” he added.

Regarding public health, Reilly said that the local neighborhood residents had expressed their concerns about the additional traffic’s impact on children playing in the streets and people out walking. “This is a very prevalent issue with the public,” Yerkovich said.

“This was not addressed in the traffic study. It would be wise to acknowledge the worst case scenario.”

Under the heading of community services, Reilly said that “any time you build something new, you’ll affect this.” He recommended that the board contact the local school district, to obtain comments about the proposal. “This is the time to push for a response,” he added.”

Yerkovich said that she would like to see more correspondence from the local school district and fire and police personnel. “If we get some answers, we will have additional tools to make our decisions,” said Board Member David Bellissimo, about continuing to contact local departments. “Let’s give it our best shot.”

In light of community members’ expressed concern about the traffic situation and the fact that “this type of project doesn’t exist anywhere in town,” Yerkovich said that she is “deeply concerned about the traffic impact on residential streets. Even if you are conservative, that is an unbelievable amount of cars to go through there.”

The acting chairperson reminded her fellow board members that, “by law, unless you are 100 percent certain that something will not negatively affect the area, you cannot issue a negative declaration.”

She suggested that a thorough review of the local traffic and roadways be done, but added that, even if additional steps are ordered to be taken on the project, this would not necessarily affect board members’ final votes.

“Internal traffic within the development needs to be studied,” said Board Member Stephen McCabe. “The residents are concerned about what happens at the end of their driveways.”

Member Doug Schawel said that the board will need to find an organization to complete the proposed traffic studies. He and Geraci said that they supported writing up a positive declaration on the project. Due to the potential impact on local roadways, Bellissimo said that he was also in favor of this action.

“We cannot declare a negative declaration,” said Board Member Dan O’Connell.”

Reilly agreed that the board needed to find only “one big issue to declare a positive declaration. We will get a targeted [environmental impact statement] and get public input,” he said. “Then, you can respond or do mitigation.”

The board authorized Reilly to draw up a positive declaration about the Sherwood Meadows Apartments.

Hopkins said, “You raised a legitimate concern, but I believe that requiring a positive declaration is premature. You need additional information before making your decision. Have us supplement that traffic study.”

Yerkovich said that the attorney was welcome to pursue additional studies, but that the board would still be asking Reilly to prepare positive declaration paperwork. “We’ll make the decision at our next meeting,” Yerkovich said, “but you can prepare that study. I urge you to start the process.”

The board agreed that a total of seven residential intersections needed to be studied. Planning Consultant Sarah desJardins said that this included each interchange east of Deerfield Road.

The issue was tabled, for the time being.

A work session regarding a proposed three-lot subdivision on Boston State Road by Dana Weller was held. The lots all back up to the Eighteenmile Creek. According to desJardins, one of the lots requires a variance, because of its proximity to the road.

Reilly said that the board can stipulate that the wood line be preserved. “People want their privacy,” he said, about houses’ being so close together.

The board will hold a public hearing about this proposal, during its next meeting.

Georgianne Peluso approached the board for approval of a two-lot subdivision. She said that she would like to build a house next to her late sister’s existing home. A public hearing for this project will also be held, during the board’s next meeting.

The board declared that a minor subdivision proposed by Brian Bates would not result in any significant environmental impact. The project is ready for site plan approval, with contingencies.

The board authorized the distribution of the impact statement for Willow Woods to be distributed to all appropriate agencies. Reilly will be drafting a State Environmental Quality Review finding statement.

The board will hold a work session at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, followed by a regular meeting.

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