Structure will devalue historic neighborhood

Sacred Heart’s plan for a new, low-cost gym is undoing decades of harmony and support from its Eggertsville neighbors. Apparently, the all-girl Catholic school doesn’t enjoy the same financial support received by area Catholic boys schools. The result is plans to erect a cheap, imposing, three-story, barn-like structure that will be an eyesore dwarfing residential neighbors and lowering property values.

The planned metal-sided and roofed Butler structure is totally incompatible with the school’s traditional stone and brick styling designed by famed Western New York architects Lawrence Bley and Duane Lyman. The industrial prefabricated shed typically is used for barns and storage facilities. It is completely out of character with Eggertsville’s surrounding Cleveland Park Terrace area, which includes 18 neighboring homes designated by Amherst as historically significant.

The school’s site plan required five zoning variances. A non-voted town zoning overlay reduced the normal 35-foot setback from its rear property line to 15 feet, and a variance further reduced it to 10 feet. The result will denude the campus of 12 mature trees that otherwise would screen the building from its neighbors and lessen noise pollution from sporting events. Also, neighbors bordering the escarpment fear that the recently upgraded storm drainage system shared with the school will be overwhelmed and once again expose their homes to flooding.

A simple solution would be to construct the gym using traditional building materials and relocate the gym to another campus site. Unfortunately, the school claims it lacks donor funds to comply. Should the lack of necessary funding warrant five variances that penalize neighbors? If, for example, you planned to install a backyard pool but lacked the funds for fencing, would you get a variance?

Neighbors simply want a suitable structure built that doesn’t devalue their historic neighborhood.

Ray and Judy Volpe