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No green light yet for Elmwood-Forest mixed-use development

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The public will get more opportunities to weigh in on the five-story mixed-use development proposed for the corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenues in Buffalo. The City Planning Board Monday decided the 57-unit project must have a full environmental impact review and public hearings before moving forward.

For the last 10 months, Martin Littlefield has been working on Buffalo's new Green Code, which regulates the specs of city development projects. The Green Code takes into account the preservation of neighborhood quality and character.

He is pleased with the Planning Board's decision because, as is, he says, the development would violate the code.

"The Green Code requires a maximum of three stories. It requires the accumulation of only two lots for any given project," said Littlefield. "This accumulates 12 lots. This grows to five stories. It might be a beautiful-looking building, which I don't know if I can fight, but the fact that it is completely a behemoth compared to the tone and tenor and general aspect of the village is what we're concerned about."

Littlefield says public hearings on the city's Green Code revisions are scheduled for mid-November, with possible passage by the end of November.  If the new code passes before the development project breaks ground, Littlefield expects the project would have to be revised and re-submitted to meet the new standards.

District Councilmember Joel Feroleto also applauded the Board's decision, saying some neighborhood residents are opposed to the project because it is so large and others are in favor of it - but at least all will have the opportunity to be heard before ground is broken.

"City representatives over the past year have heard that people in the Elmwood Village area don't want developers to be able to build a five-story building as of right - without seeking any variances, without having public hearings," Feroleto said.

Chason Affinity has been developing the brick-and-brownstone project that will combine residential and retail space. It was originally designed to be seven stories, but neighborhood opposition prompted Chason to scale it down. Construction is targeted to begin in spring 2017.

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