The Town of Lancaster is looking to relocate its emergency management office to its Pavement Road public safety complex and to sell its present building on Columbia Avenue in Depew.
But that decision isn’t getting rave reviews from a handful of residents who think a youth or community-based center would better serve that section of town, within Depew. The building once served as the Depew Public Library.
“To put a commercial business down there, you’ll minimize the integrity of that whole neighborhood,” Depew resident Dan Beutler said this week of the town’s decision to hire Pyramid Brokerage Co. to market the property at 321 Columbia Ave., with the hope of selling it.
Beutler said the site would make an excellent spot for a community youth center. “I have a lot of issues with this,” he said.
Resident Don Symer also found fault with the town’s plan, suggesting that a permissive referendum perhaps be held on the matter. “The building would make an ideal community center,” Symer said of the building, located in the northwest sector of Lancaster.
The Town Board on Monday ended up unanimously approving an agreement with Pyramid Brokerage to list the property for sale, eventually hoping to relocate the town’s emergency management operations to its Pavement Road facility.
Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli said he’s been interested in the last few years to see that property returned to the tax rolls. “The Village of Depew is not growing. Taxes continue to rise, and we should take the opportunity to put the property back on the tax roll,” Fudoli said. “The village and town could use the tax revenues.”
In response to questions from residents about a future re-use of the property, Councilman Mark Aquino said: “We’re not going to sell it to a porn shop to destroy the neighborhood. The town has the final say.” He said the Village of Depew has the final say on any rezoning that may be considered. “The town is trying to consolidate operations on Pavement Road,” he added.
But Beutler noted the town’s semi-recent investment in a new roof and furnace. Other concerns centered on the possible need to rezone the property from its current residential zoning.
Depew Mayor Steven P. Hoffman said he knew the town was considering moving emergency management operations from Columbia Avenue but said the village will keep a close eye on the zoning issue.
“I would be all for putting it back on the tax rolls, but I’d like to be very selective in what type of business goes in there,” Hoffman said Tuesday. “I don’t know if we’d rezone it. We don’t want to spot zone. We don’t want to be cherry-picking.”
Hoffman said the village would want to preserve the character of the neighborhood. He noted the town’s property is zoned residential, but it is next to a commercial property, Joseph’s Country Manor & Grove.
If it sold, and were to become a youth facility, rezoning would not be needed, Hoffman said, though he noted the community already is well served by its Boys & Girls Club.
The club, he said, has recently submitted a proposal to the village to build a state-of-the-art facility to replace its facility that was badly burned a year ago on Preston Street.
The existing club gymnasium still would be used, Hoffman said.