Plans for market-rate apartments and townhouses in Amherst were voted down on Monday, and they went down in grand fashion.
The Amherst Town Board voted 5 to 1 against rezoning four acres at the end of Linwood Avenue and South Forest Road for 55 units proposed by developer Andrew Romanowski.
But here’s the twist.
Just minutes earlier, the board had voted 4 to 2 in favor of the rezoning, eliciting groans and a little heckling by the half-dozen opponents in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
“Thanks for selling us out,” one woman yelled from the audience.
But as the opponents started to leave the Town Board meeting, Council Member Barbara S. Nuchereno asked if she could change her vote.
The board spent the next several minutes deliberating the matter, as Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones checked the legality of Nuchereno recasting her vote.
The board voted again and this time it was a 5 to 1 vote against rezoning the property from residential to multi-family residential – in essence rejecting the 55-unit project.
Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein and Council Member Mark A. Manna – who voted against the project in the first vote – were joined by Nuchereno and Council Members Richard “Jay” Anderson and Guy R. Marlette in the second vote.
Council Member Steven D. Sanders was the only one who voted for the rezoning both times.
“I’m shocked,” Linwood Avenue resident Donald Montalto said of the turn of events.
Nuchereno thought the project on the table was the lesser of two evils, because it didn’t propose the extension of Linwood Avenue, she explained after the meeting.
Residents have been adamant about not extending Linwood, which is a dead-end street.
The current zoning of the property still allows the developer to build a modified project on the site with five apartment buildings containing 31 units. And that alternative option calls for the extension of Linwood.
Nuchereno believes residents may be disappointed by the alternative, but after hearing the heckling from the crowd decided to give residents what they want.
Meanwhile, Council Member Mark A. Manna said he would submit a resolution on behalf of the neighbors early next year seeking to down-zone the property for single-family homes. Residents acknowledged they feel they are being squeezed by this project on one end and the new Wyndham Garden Hotel at Main Street and South Forest on the other.
Sean W. Hopkins, the attorney for the developer, has been representing developers in Amherst for years and was surprised by the change of Monday’s vote. When asked after the meeting whether he had seen such a turn of events, Hopkins said: “I’ve seen it, but not in a long time.”
In other business, the board voted 5 to 1 to rezone two separate East Amherst parcels for commercial buildings proposed at 9500-9510 Transit Road, north of Casey Road, and 9480 Transit, across from Miles Road in Clarence.
The project at 9500-9510 Transit calls for two single-story commercial buildings – one 3,850 square feet, another 8,800 square feet – to go along with the 236-unit apartment project already under construction on the site.
The other project at 9480 Transit proposes two more single-story retail buildings – each 3,850 square feet – located between the Platinum Fitness site and the senior development under construction.
Weinstein was the only no vote.