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Short N. Buffalo street, a decade in the making, sparking controversy

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One relatively short street in North Buffalo knotted up the Common Council Legislation Committee Tuesday for more than two hours.

The street is called Rachel Vincent Way. One day it will run between Colvin Boulevard and Starin Avenue, along the route of a long abandoned rail line above the level of most of the surrounding property.

Over the last decade, 24 homes have been built east from Colvin. Marrano/Marc Equity wants to quickly build 34 more - toward an eventual total of 96 - a prospect strongly attacked by some neighbors and longtime opponents of development, saying the plan bypasses city rules, including the new Green Code.

The project was originally approved in 2008 under the city's old development rules and the first 24 homes built were on relatively small lots. Rachel Vincent resident Steve Curvin said he favors additional homes, but is concerned about traffic in the future.

"Are there any traffic-calming measures being considered between Colvin Avenue and Starin Avenue? Because there are no intersecting streets in that stretch of roadway that's going to be developed," Curvin said. "So I think the concern of the people that are already on the street and the people that will be on the street is that this is going to turn into an expressway of sorts between Colvin and Starin and vice versa."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

There are no cross streets, although there is a planned traffic circle along a street that will be several times the 800-foot limit for a city block in the Green Code.

Marrano Executive Vice President of Land & Diversification David DePaolo said prices will work up from $300,000 for houses of 2,000 square feet.

"We're limited by the lot size in this project. There's not a diversity of lot size," said DePaolo. "The lots are very small and the range of home size is not going to be great. They're not going to be real large. They're not going to be very small."

DePaolo said they will be easy to sell and there are lots for 62 beyond the currently planned, which he expects will also sell quickly.

Neighbors said their lots and homes are being flooded by water washing off the old rail line. Taunton Place resident Candace Morrison said the drainage system cannot handle storm waters in the area.

"This past winter there were cars that were literally frozen to the road because of the volume of water," Morrison said. "The water going up to the top of the wheel well such that during the coldest days of January, you had residents who couldn't move their car because the water had frozen the car in the street."

The area used to have a lot of capacity to absorb water, because it was covered with trees and vegetation and was home to many animals, but they have been displaced by the construction.

The city has spent $1 million installing infrastructure between Colvin and Starin. Councilmembers sent the request to allow the additional development to the full Council without recommendation, which means it will be talked about at Tuesday's caucus and potentially full session.

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.