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Deal falls apart for new Ciminelli waterfront townhouses

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Buffalo's Common Council had actually taken a vote Tuesday on a long-running fight over development on one of the last open parcels of city waterfront land...when a deal fell apart.

It's been almost five years since Ciminelli Real Estate pushed for development of the site. It nearly turned into a civil war in the various waterfront neighborhoods, as the original plan for a high-rise with 31 townhouses and condos shrank into 20 townhouses.

The price to be paid for the two-and-a-half-acres of land has also shrunk with the decreasing development and because of unexpected environmental remediation.

During the session, Council President Darius Pridgen called the vote and there was a majority for approval. Pridgen explained the complexity of the proposed deal.

"The second most-involved process in which we really did have to dig in there," Pridgen described it, "and at the end of the day, nobody is 100 percent happy, but we got to a point that made sense for most people."

What crashed the deal before the votes were officially counted was concern that townhouse owners could block coveted waterfront views of other residents.

"The developer agreed to no balconies, which would obstruct the viewsheds of a lot of people that live there, near the water, because that's why people are there," said Councilmember David Franczyk. "But the fear is that as soon as the units are sold, individual owners of the units will start putting in balconies, because there's nothing to stop them from doing it, other than going to the Planning Board or the Zoning Board or that way. So they wanted deed restrictions."

Trying to put restrictions on the deeds on the fly during the meeting became too complicated. Pridgen was not happy.

"We have committee meetings. We've had community meetings. We've had meetings with the meetings, meetings with the developers, meetings with the community," he said. "Community's split, so now we've got several different entities that we're dealing with, but at the end of the day, we're elected and we have to make decisions and so we've got to make a decision on this."

Ciminelli's Assistant Vice PresidentAnne Duggan also was disappointed. It may pass in two weeks.

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.
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