By Amy Winklhofer
The Clarence Town Board is considering a six-month moratorium on new apartment projects within its town. Councilman Bernard J. Kolber initiated the idea “to allow time to set zoning guidelines for multifamily projects.” The idea is being seconded by fellow Councilman Patrick Casilio. The move seems reasonable: an effort to protect the citizens from over-development that would burden existing infrastructure and schools.
Supporters of the moratorium portray the planning process as a rush to development, a far cry from reality. Before a shovel is placed in the ground, developers must present a SEQR – a New York State Environmental Quality Review – which requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.
The builders must also appear before both the local Planning Board and Town Board for reviews and approvals before construction, giving officials multiple opportunities to question the project, analyze the impact, field public opinion and, if deemed unworthy, reject development.
The currently proposed complexes are not the first multi-dwelling structures to be built in Clarence. A number of them have previously been built without anyone putting the brakes on construction.
While Councilman Kolber has publicly stated that he is concerned about what will take place in Clarence over the next 50 to 100 years, one has to wonder what he has been thinking of for the past eight years that he has sat on the Town Board.
What he can be credited with is supporting three building moratoriums previous to this recommendation. It is apparent that his idea of progress is “Just say whoa!”
It is unfortunate but necessary that residents must carefully examine the motives behind this effort. Certain council members are directly affected by any decision made. One or more officials own rental properties and developments in Clarence.
While inferences can be made, suggestions of impropriety could easily be alleviated if those with a conflict would withdraw from speaking or voting on this matter.
Finally, we have been entrenched in the Great Recession, and there are barely signs that we are coming out of it. There are people willing to invest in Clarence to create construction jobs, expand the tax base and bring in new residents who will support our town businesses.
While we should never trade short- term gains for long-term problems, this council must find a way to work with investors while protecting our quality of life. Clarence has been identified as business-unfriendly for a number of years. This is not the time for obstructionist attitudes or myopic efforts. Maybe the next moratorium should be on the election of unimaginative leaders.
Amy Winklhofer is president of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.