The Clarence Town Board is considering limiting the number of new apartment units based on the amount of land on which the project is to be built.
The Town Board discussed the idea at its Wednesday work session with James Callahan, the town’s director of community development. Town officials are looking for ways to cope with an expected influx of new apartment developments, with a number of those projects either pending or being talked about.
Town Board members have debated imposing some kind of annual limit on new apartment units, akin to a cap now in place for building permits issued annually for single-family homes.
Callahan suggested a new-apartments cap tied to a project’s acreage, so that a developer would know the limitations up front. For instance, the town could set a maximum number of units that could be built on parcels of more than 10 acres. “That way you don’t get these mega-projects, and I know that’s the concern,” Callahan said. “It’s that raw, big number.”
Callahan said he favored a per-acre cap as a solution over an annual cap on multifamily residential units, a limitation which the developer might not bump into until after completing the approvals process.
“If you approve the project, and you’ve gone through an environmental review, and you’ve got 125 units approved and you say, ‘You can only do 100 of them,’ I think that’s a real problem,” Callahan said.
Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr. said in addition to the per-acre cap, he would like to see an annual cap on the number of those projects, “so that there is not a proliferation of little 25- or 50-unit apartment buildings.”
Mark Stevens, whose company wants to build an apartment development on Wehrle Drive, said developers already face the challenge of having to build multifamily housing projects on property zoned for commercial use.
“Commercial property is more expensive to start with,” he said. “We’re paying over $100,000 per acre.”
By also imposing per-acre unit restrictions, Stevens said, “that’s already making it very expensive trying to deliver multifamily residential product on that size parcel.”
“I really think there is a segment in any town that needs rental housing,” he said. “It’s a growing need, We see it across all communities.”
Town Board members are weighing a cap on new multifamily units because of the potential impact on town services, sewers and roads from a rise in population, as well as the added demand on its building inspectors.
Town Councilman Bernard J. Kolber said the town’s approach of maintaining “slow, controlled growth has served us well and continues to serve us well.”
“We have to determine what the future of this town should look like, going out 40 or 50 years, beyond even the 2025 master plan we might consider,” Kolber said. “The projects you approve now are going to be there for at least that time. They’re not going away. And I don’t want them to look back at us and say, ‘How in the world did they ever let that stuff through?’”