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Lawsuit filed over $25M Fruit Belt apartment complex development

Michigan-Redev LLC / Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals

It took approval of 13 zoning variances to move forward a large apartment project on the edge of Buffalo's Fruit Belt. It also brought on a lawsuit.

Michigan-Redev LLC is planning a $25 million complex of 133 apartment units on an assemblage of 15 lots running back from Michigan Avenue and Maple Street. The Zoning Board of Appeals approved the massive project Thursday.

Lawyer Arthur Giacalone is taking this to court because the plan is far above the 21 units allowed in the city's zoning Green Code.

"These developers didn't budge at all in the major issues. It's too big and there are too many units," Giacalone said. "Under the Green Code, the most that they could have legally, by right, on Maple Street, the residential street, is 21 units, They have 68 units, more than three times the number allowed under the zoning code."

He said the two buildings of the project are higher, wider and bigger than allowed.

"Four four-unit buildings and a fifth five-unit building on 260'-wide site and none of us are going to complain? Do what the code says and don't try to make up through the variance process the fact that you spent on speculation a lot more money than you should have on those properties," Giacalone said.

He said the developer paid $2 million for the 15 parcels under the city's old zoning code, which would have allowed a total of 27 units.

"So the Green Code actually went up. They could build 57 units under the Green Code. They want a total of 133. And so, to see the number go up is just astounding to me," Giacalone said.

The project has a lot of support from Fruit Belt residents, who see it making the area more dense and more attractive for what they consider needed services, like food stores. The case is due before State Supreme Court Justice Frank Sedita on Aug. 28.

WBFO reached out to the developer in this court case, but did not receive a response.

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.