By David Chiazza
Much has been made of recent development projects across Buffalo Niagara that are creating jobs, driving economic growth and, in many cases, restoring properties to their former glory after years of neglect, along with a renewed emphasis on “smart growth.”
That is what our firm has done throughout its history of developing projects that include the restoration of Buffalo’s Electric Tower and the renovation of many buildings along the Main Street corridor in Amherst. And that’s exactly what we’re proud to be doing a short distance from our Williamsville headquarters, where we’re saving the 51-year-old, Duane Lyman-designed Lord Amherst Hotel from the wrecking ball by renovating and pairing it with a new Hyatt Place on Main Street at the I-290; a property that’s been in commercial use for more than 50 years.
The project was granted minor variances, just as is done with projects throughout Western New York. However, contrary to a handful of opponents, none of the variances had to do with the six-story height of the Hyatt Place, which has been expressly permitted under the property’s general business since 1976. Amherst’s Zoning Board of Appeals did not “raise” the height restriction, as stated in the recent News editorial, “Amherst development.” Rather, it affirmed that a condition imposed 44 years ago relative to building height was annulled by the Town Board in 1976 when a new ordinance was adopted. The Zoning Board did not change the rules. It affirmed them, and its decision was later upheld by the New York Supreme Court.
Regardless of one’s position on development in Amherst, or even our hotel project, it is important to note that the redevelopment of the Lord Amherst property is a smart-growth project. It’s located on Main Street along a busy highway interchange that has been commercially zoned and in continuous hospitality use for decades. It is also designated an Enhancement Zone parcel, which occurred as a result of an initiative undertaken by the Town of Amherst to identify target areas for redevelopment in response to the smart-growth objectives set forth in its comprehensive plan. Careful planning and engineering went into the Lord Amherst redevelopment project, and the review process it was subject to was extensive and proper, as has been affirmed by recent court decisions.
Amherst is our home, and we welcome a renewed public discourse on what the majority of the town’s 122,000 citizens want for their Main Street commercial corridor in the future. In the meantime, residents can be assured that the Lord Amherst property is being redeveloped consistent with the town’s adopted comprehensive plan and zoning, and we’re gratified by the overwhelming support that we’ve received regarding the project.
David Chiazza is executive vice president for Iskalo Development Corp.