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The Clarence Town Board is considering a new method to guide decisions on where apartment projects could be built.

The apartments issue has come to the forefront with several developments either proposed or being talked about. Town Board members are trying to determine how to handle an influx of perhaps hundreds of new residents if the developments were to be approved and built in a short amount of time.

The board is reviewing whether to approve a multiple-family residential housing “overlay zone,” as recommended by the Planning Board. The overlay zone would establish guidelines for building new apartment complexes, based on properties’ size, access to sewers, zoning classification and a project’s unit density.

“The Planning Board looked hard at all this and their recommendation is the overlay,” James Callahan, director of community development, told the Town Board Wednesday night. “I think this offers the most flexibility and still gives you the sole discretion.”

Town Councilman Bernard J. Kolber said he still had reservations about the overlay zone, indicating he was more comfortable with creating a multifamily housing zoning classification for the town.

But Callahan said the overlay would act like a zoning classification, with the Town Board still controlling decisions about new apartments.

“It’s [the Town Board’s] discretion to overlay this onto any property, or not,” Callahan said. “Rather than identify it up front [as multifamily], let the market dictate what may come in, and you make the decision as to the best acceptable end use.”

The overlay zone would allow multiple family housing developments to be built only on properties within sewer districts as approved by the Town Board.

The requirements for an apartment development’s lot size, density and whether it must include a commercial component would vary depending on whether the land was zoned as commercial, restricted business or traditional neighborhood. For example, projects on commercial and restricted business land would need a minimum of five acres; the minimum for projects in traditional neighborhood zones would be two acres.

Planning officials showed the Town Board a color-coded map of properties in town with access to sewers that would be potential sites for future multifamily development, based on the overlay zone’s guidelines. Only a handful of undeveloped properties were identified as meeting the requirements.

The board informally agreed to scrap proposed exceptions that would allow, under certain circumstances, projects to be built on unsewered lots or on commercial parcels with less than five acres. They also favored tightening some of the density restrictions recommended by the Planning Board.

The Town Board has not yet scheduled a public hearing on the proposed overlay zone. Separately, the Town Board is reviewing the annual cap on construction of new housing, exploring potential caps for apartments and manufactured homes.

In other business Wednesday, Callahan said the Jehovah’s Witnesses have proposed building a 4,000-square-foot Kingdom Hall at the northeast corner of Shimerville and Roll roads. The Town Board will further discuss the idea when it meets Dec. 19.

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