Williamsville moved closer to another major housing project Thursday night, when the Village Board tentatively agreed to a land swap that will make way for a new apartment and townhouse complex.
After nearly three hours of discussion, questions and answers in a crowded meeting room, the board went through the slow legal process to approve the plan for 30 townhouses and 96 apartments off California Road. There is still more process to go through with the Planning Board.
The public had two dozen questions about the details - from why the board wants the land swap, to the effect on a building on the site that was once a section house for workers on the rail lines running through Williamsville, with the hope the decaying structure would be moved to a nearby railroad museum.
Village Trustee Deborah Rogers opposed the deal, saying there were too many ifs in it.
"This is one of the good parts of the village and making decisions for residents that are going to affect them 10, 15, 20 years isn't always an immediate cost," Rogers said. "I'm looking at it, eventually, I will sit here and tell you finding a home for the side yard is going to cost village taxpayers more than $10,000."
The half-acre trade gives Natale Development land it needs for the project and the village gets a piece of property to replace the side yard of the Public Works Department. Neighbor Dan Rider said the land swap would move the side yard farther away from his home.
"It is now. Because we have the DPW side yard right down the street, which came out tonight," Rider said. "I didn't start calling it a dump, other people called it a dump, even people on the Council, here. I don't think that really belongs there and I think the village ought to look for a long-term situation of getting rid of that."
Mayor Brian Kulpa said the land swap would clean up a mess in the center of the village and make it easier to eventually have a land connection between two village parks.
Natale wants to start demolition for the $25-$30 million project later this year, with construction starting in the spring. Natale President Bobby Corrao said the company wants to hold onto the apartments and sell the townhouses.
"Certainly there's an advantage of selling the townhomes as soon as we can to get things moving over there, but our long-term play for the site is to own these apartments and to put up a beautiful product that we intend to own for as long as we possibly can," said Corrao. "Nothing that we're looking to turn around and just make a quick buck on this. It's something we really take a lot of pride in and plan on it being one of the best developments in Western New York."