Weekly Feature

2018-02-14 / Front Page

Woodland Hills Subdivision runs into familiar resident concerns


For more than 20 years, developers have envisioned a major development on the vacant, 52-acre site on the south side of Greiner Road, east of Harris Hill Road.

The very same concerns from neighbors that delayed the project the first time around — drainage worries and traffic impacts — are resurfacing again as Cimato & Sons Inc. inches closer to making its imagined subdivision a reality.

At the Planning Board’s Feb. 7 meeting, the construction company requested amended concept plan approval for the Woodland Hills Subdivision, a proposed 77-lot residential development.

The idea, originally referred to as Fox Trace East after Cimato purchased the property in 1995, has encountered several hurdles since its inception two decades ago. In 2004, the town rezoned the property from an agricultural to a residential district, but existing wetlands and how to connect the property to sewer lines created a complex host of issues.

In 2010, the property was hooked into the town’s Sewer District 10, and five years later, an amended concept plan was introduced. Construction work is expected to begin by the end of the year on the first of three phases.

Ken Zollitsch of the engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen Inc. explained to the Planning Board the reasons for the delay in submitting the amended concept plan, noting the introduction of a more recent wetland delineation that occurred onsite, forcing the developers to revisit certain areas of the plan, as well as concerns about ingress and egress into sections of the property.

Like the last iteration of the concept plan, entrances into the subdivision exist on Harris Hill and Greiner roads, and a 20-foot buffer along the back of the property line will be established for privacy in the form of a berm.

“It had been a concern of neighbors at the time we discussed the original concept, and it was a concern of the Planning Board at that time that there was to be a buffer,” said board member Wendy Salvati. “The town engineer was aware that the drainage would be moved forward, so it will be a condition tonight.”

The concept plan unveiled last week encountered the same residential criticisms that stalled the plan when first introduced, as potential neighbors of the subdivision spoke out about what they perceive as legitimate grievances that must be addressed by the town before the concept plan is approved.

“If the wetlands grow and you’re selling two lots to people that don’t know anything about it, that’s not a very good idea,” said Carol Conwall, a resident of Meadowbrook Road.

Conwall also recommended to the board a new traffic study that could better determine the potential impact that such a large subdivision might have on an already heavily trafficked area.

“Does it [the study] take into consideration the town as a whole? Because the growth in this town and the traffic is really becoming immense,” she said.

Kathy Goodrich of Harris Hill Road reiterated the concern.

“A couple of my concerns as a resident on Harris Hill for over 20 years, is the immense burst of traffic,” she said. “Everybody who has to go to the Thruway or to downtown, how many of them are not taking Transit? Often, they’re taking Harris Hill [to get to Transit Road]. As soon as you cross Sheridan Drive, how many know that the speed limit goes down to 35. That’s our neighborhood. It’s not just a road. It’s our neighborhood where we live.”

Zollitsch responded to board questioning on the issue by saying he did not know when the last traffic study was conducted or what its scope was, though he pointed out that a negative declaration was issued to the project in 2004 under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The negative declaration means the project would have no adverse impact on the environment.

According to Jim Callahan, director of community development for the Town of Clarence, traffic studies of this nature would have taken into account the town’s growth in population and vehicular usage.

“These traffic studies do project out; they are cumulative. In the interim, we have done numerous traffic studies that are on file with the town, including Harris Hill Commons, Eastgate Plaza, Creekwood Meadows, that have all identified traffic in this area,” he said. “We all know that traffic is growing. The county did not give us any comments as to needing any type of mitigation for this project.”

Traffic, however, has not been the sole concern on the minds of neighbors. Conwall noted that there are already drainage issues in her yard and that a large-scale project bordering her property could exacerbate them.

Jim Gale, owner of the home at 5060 Meadowbrook Road, told the Planning Board that the drainage problem in his yard has only gotten worse since the town began clearing the Cimato land in the ’90s.

“Since this started, our yards have been a mess … the amount of water in the house next to me was never that bad, and I’ve been here for 33 years,” he said. “The water in my yard has never been that bad. It comes up maybe 30 feet into my yard at times.”

Zollitsch attempted to assure residents that drainage problems would not be aggravated by the subdivision, noting that a stormwater system and drainage ponds, in addition to rear-yard drainage, would help to mitigate any excess water.

The Planning Board voted to recommend the plan to the Town Board, which has final approval for the amended concept plan.

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