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Major changes coming to the way Amherst develops

Town of Amherst

Snyder-area residents were told Monday night there are major changes coming in the way Amherst plans, zones and develops.

Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa has called a series of meetings around the town to explain what's going on. After some discussions internally, the meetings were set based on volunteer fire company districts.

The town is dealing with a series of major projects, both actively in the works - like replacing Northtown Plaza and battling over what goes on the old Westwood Country Club site - and the probable future of the Boulevard Mall site.

Speaking at the Park School Dining Hall, Kulpa said redeveloping the old shopping center sites offers great opportunities to move toward new neighborhoods.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa describes the town's development plans.

"This zoning actually seeks to kind of take one of these large sites through its entire life cycle and plan for each step of its life cycle," he said. "So, in every aspect of it, every time you touch it, a percentage of green space gets unlocked and you get to create public space."

For example, Kulpa showed the crowd the Boulevard Mall site with new roads across it and what that could mean to redeveloping the property. He said there's a need for speed about the mall.

"There's an impetus for the developer to move according to a set of federal guidelines. They actually have to move relatively quick," Kulpa said. "So for that redevelopment, we would expect we will start seeing plans in December, because they have to sort of tell the federal government how they are spending money that they are investing in this Opportunity Zone."

Credit Google Maps
Boulevard Mall was recently purchased by Seneca One developer Doug Jemal.

Seneca One developer Doug Jemal met with Kulpa Monday, as a recent major investor in the group redeveloping Boulevard Mall. Immediate projects are expected to be substantial apartment complexes on unused parking space along Niagara Falls Boulevard. That offers the town an opportunity to open the property to new streets and walkability and for the developers to run the possible Metro Rail extension through the site instead of adjacent to it.

For Westwood, the supervisor said the town wants to create a new large Central Park, equivalent in size to Manhattan's park of the same name - part of a new and greener town. That's why a new master plan and new zoning rules - similar to Buffalo's Green Code - that are more reflective of neighborhoods are in the works.

Town Planning Director Dan Howard said planners can be more flexible.

"We can offer an opportunity to kind of mix residential and commercial and maybe some office in places that are more sustainable. In other words, you can do more in those places to sustain the economic viability of that building," Howard said. "It creates more vibrant places where people want to live and work. So the idea is we're going to allow mixed uses in these areas instead of just commercial."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Monday's public meeting was one of several planned by the town to discuss development plans.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.