Amherst approves one proposed housing development, while opponents delay another

Mar 6, 2018

Monday night's Amherst Town Board meeting saw two different development struggles over rezonings to develop open land for housing.

The board is facing rezoning requests for former farmland on New Road to build 89 housing units and two pieces of property on Sweet Home Road that are being consolidated to allow for the construction of 48 units in 13 different buildings, mostly on previously developed land. The Sweet Home parcel was originally a smaller piece of property, but then developer Roger Savarino bought another property and radically changed the design.

Neighbor Christopher Stone said he and other neighbors negotiated for 14 months with Savarino and they have all cut a deal.

"We went from basically what we thought was student housing to something acceptable," Stone said. "We all understand that this is a piece of property that could be developed and will be developed. So these negotiations, these 18 conditions, or 14 conditions that are in there were were very important to us."

The Town Board agreed to the Sweet Home rezoning, but delayed rezoning the New Road site after multiple speakers attacked the plan, claiming terrible traffic problems on the road, more cars adding to that terrible traffic and new construction further aggravating severe drainage issues.

The proposed development on New Road.
Credit Amherst Engineering Department

"Our neighborhood was a different world 25 years ago," said 25-year resident Richard Nachbar. "Back then, New Road traffic was tricky, but it was still manageable. Yes, my wife was run off New Road by a careless southbound driver, leaving her car on its right side, deep down in a culvert. We survived that incident and immediately became even more cautious."

Nachbar said his drainage pond is the highest it has ever been. Opponents said the additional homes will aggravate drainage and traffic safety issues. Co-owner Richard Jacobs blasted many of the comments.

"The building of all those houses was made possible only by rezoning previously vacant green space, SA farmland, into an R3 designation," said Jacobs. "Many of the people in opposition here this evening would not live here, where they do now, if it were not for an approved rezoning request before their houses were built."

One family has owned the site for generations, a site once surrounded by farmland, but now occupied by developments. Developer Angelo Natale wants to build the 89 single homes on the land.