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Plans for 72 new apartments on Sweet Home Road in Amherst have won approval of the town, which is also weighing the possibility of another 400 apartments nearby in the long-awaited Muir Woods project.

The Amherst Town Board, by a 4 to 1 vote, Monday rezoned 2.6 acres at 2493 and 2497 Sweet Home, paving the way for the 72 new apartments proposed near Dodge Road by developer Anthony Cutaia.

The original plans have been altered in recent months and now show the apartments housed in two three-story buildings, located south of Heritage Heights Elementary School and north of the Muir Woods property.

Rents would range from $1,350 to $1,500 a month, said Sean W. Hopkins, attorney for the developer. The project still needs site-plan approval but could break ground by the end of the year, he said.

Council Member Ramona D. Popowich cast the lone vote against the project, because of the three-story building’s proximity to the elementary school, but Hopkins noted a letter from the district in support.

Also on Monday, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. came to the Town Board asking for more flexibility to develop plans for Muir Woods – which the town approved in 2007 – should the developer want to scale back on office space and add as many as 424 new apartments – nearly half for college students.

“I for one am ready to vote against it,” said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

Proposed in 2001 as the area’s largest office park, Muir Woods has taken on different forms over the years and a variety of obstacles, including neighborhood opposition and a site severely limited by wetlands. Marketing plans for 700,000 square feet of new research and commercial space also proved to be difficult in a region that hasn’t been able to absorb all the suburban office space that exists.

As a result, Ciminelli returned to the Town of Amherst earlier this year requesting a wider range of permitted use on the Muir Woods site, specifically the 46-acre parcel just north of the I-990.

More than a dozen residents showed up for the public hearing, and Council Members Mark A. Manna and Steven D. Sanders asked the board to hold off on a decision. Council Member Guy R. Marlette, meanwhile, suggested Ciminelli come back with a more specific plan for that parcel – whether it be residential, office space or a combination of both.

“It’s easier for everyone to understand,” Marlette said.

“That’s a good point,” Hopkins said. “We need a little time, but if you think that’s appropriate, we’d be willing to do that.”

The issue is expected to come back to the Town Board in September.

The board also:

• Rezoned more than two acres at 2788, 2794 and 2800 Millersport Highway for the expansion of the Old Dutchman’s Wrought Iron business.

• Approved the extension of the lighting district along North Rockingham Way in the Lake Forest North Subdivision and Dockside Parkway in the Dockside Village Subdivision. The cost to homeowners on those streets would be 72 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

• Granted historic designation to a 19th century farmhouse located at 58 Youngs Road.

email: jrey@buffnews.com