Weekly Feature

2018-01-24 / Front Page

Blueberry farm to stay put for now as Town Board tables plan for estate homes


For more than five years, the Clarence blueberry U-pick farm that has been a part of the property at 5685 Shimerville Road has grown exponentially as scores of residents descend upon the rows of blueberry bushes each summer.

While the property itself has been sold, residents who want to continue satiating their blueberry fix locally do not have to fret in the immediate future. At its Jan. 17 meeting, the Town Board tabled a motion that would have seen the creation of several estate homes toward the rear of the property.

The property’s new owner, Damian Baird, represented at the meeting by Metzger Civil Engineering, seeks the creation of a major subdivision including a four-lot open development area. Town officials, however, are hesitant to advance the proposal due to a complicated series of irregularities that exist on the property, which are not compliant with existing town code.

The property itself consists of 36 acres, which include nine lots and two existing homes. The intent, according to Michael Metzger of Metzger Civil Engineering, is to renovate those homes. One would be used as the residence of the owners while the other would be sold.

As they exist, the two homes lack the necessary frontage as required by the town code — a dilemma that Baird must find a solution to if the property is to be developed.

Complicating matters further is that homes along that part of Shimerville Road are not connected to a sewer district.

Baird, who spent approximately $2.1 million to purchase the 36-acre property, calls for three new homes on Shimerville, three homes to be built in a new cul-de-sac and an additional three homes that would connect to an existing driveway from previous ownership.

“This property is quite complicated,” said Metzger, adding that Gott Creek runs along the back of the property, and along that corridor are protected state wetlands on both sides.

Baird has already run into opposition from residents over what they see as an intentional effort to develop over the popular blueberry farm, which opened in 2012.

At last week’s meeting, Metzger stated that preliminary concepts showing a development of the blueberry patch area was only for the purposes of concept review.

“As part of the [State Environmental Quality Review] process, often questions are asked about what might happen there, if you have any idea would you might do, and there isn’t a strong intent for development of this area right now,” he said. “For the purposes of showing a complete plan, we thought we would show an open development area.”

Metzger went further in indicating that Baird not only wanted to keep the farm intact, but also that he would look to operate it in the future.

“My clients are of the opinion that they would like to operate that blueberry farm,” Metzger said. “It appears to be successful and quite popular. They don’t have any intention of doing anything there in the immediate future.”

Metzger indicated to the Town Board that in order to expedite the review process, he and his client had no issues with sending the proposal to the Planning Board on the condition that the blueberry farm area would not be included in development plans.

Members of the Town Board however, were not enthusiastic about sending an incomplete proposal forward.

“What we would ask is that we begin the planning review process for a project that would include these four estate lots as an open development utilizing the common driveway that’s already there, along with the three single frontage lots,” Metzger told the board before asking for the town’s guidance on how to make the property compliant with town code.

“That’s your job to fix it, not ours,” replied Supervisor Patrick Casilio. “They’re [the lots] fine the way they are now, but if you want to do something different, you have to figure that out. … I don’t want this to become a work session. You know from the way it is drawn now, the proposal doesn’t work.”

Councilman Paul Shear indicated to Metzger that he and his client face an ultimatum to come back with a proposal that meets town code or face the project being rejected altogether.

“The existing home at the top is not conforming because it has no frontage,” said Shear. “I believe that we have two options: one is to table this until you come back with something that meets our code. … The other alternative is just to deny it.”

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