City Hall is looking to ease some of the rules of Buffalo's Green Code to get work started again on the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle hospital site.
The only two big projects completed on the site are buildings constructed on land sold by developer TM Montante. The developer admits problems because it is tied in with Rochester developer Morgan, who faces federal criminal prosecution.
That's why it is cut a deal with the city, which still has to be ratified, to offer community benefits to the neighborhood in exchange for increased tax abatements for the site, along with affordable housing commitments and guaranteed women and minority business commitments.
Mayor's Strategic Planning Office Executive Director Brendan Mehaffy said development needs help.
"Development is still very difficult to do and we need to be there in a public-private partnership to make sure that these projects get done, at the end of the day," Mehaffy said. "The developer has really stepped up with these enhanced community benefits here, so this isn't just a situation where there is a tax exemption to get the project done, which is still extremely important, but there are also the community benefits, as well, that come along with it, which the developer is going to be committed to."
Neighbors are not necessarily enthused about the new city benefit offer, but would like to see the proposed plans for the site move along. It is before the city Planning Board one week from Monday and then goes back to the Common Council.
Neighborhood activist Daniel Sack said the city needs to step up and get the project going.
"The city should come up with a plan to help the residents to help design a better project there that has been envisioned because what they have allowed has permitting nothing to happen," Sack said. "We just see nothing there."
Sack is vice president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture. He has been a longtime critic of city development projects and has fought constant efforts to weaken the Green Code controlling development, something that would occur if the city approves the new development action area for the remaining Millard Gates site.
Common Council President Darius Pridgen said there have to be exceptions to the Green Code.
"What I don't want to see is us go back to the old days. That's why we did the Green Code," Pridgen said. "But let me be clear. In doing development, there's still going to be some needs to make some changes in certain areas. So the one thing I don't want to see is development be stifled because we're not willing, when we need to do certain zones, not willing to do it simply because of the Green Code."