The battle between developers of the Iskalo Hyatt and Snyder residents has been raging on for over one year. And yet another skirmish is scheduled to occur this Tuesday at a 7p meeting of the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals.
It was a year ago, on May 15, 2012, when the ZBA voted, in a precedent-setting manner, to overturn a determination of the town’s Building Commissioner that no structure exceeding the 2-story height of the Lord Amherst would be allowed on the small, oddly shaped commercial parcel located behind the Lord Amherst itself. This was the first time the ZBA overturned a determination by the building commissioner.
The Amherst building department had previously told residents of Livingston Parkway, a densely populated street nestled behind the historic gates at Main and Smallwood, that this commercial parcel, when developed, was restricted to buildings not to exceed 2 stories. The Building Department told Iskalo the same exact thing shortly after Iskalo bought the property in August 2011.
No building over 2 stories.
The ZBA has two distinct functions. To rule on zoning variances and to hear appeals of certain administrative decisions made by Town officials.
Iskalo filed an appeal with the ZBA in March 2012 to overturn the commissioner’s height limit. The parcel’s underlying zoning, without the restriction, would have permitted a 6-story building. Town Building Department officials told the residents that there was “no way” the ZBA would approve such a thing. “I’ve been here for 37 years. The ZBA has never overruled the Commissioner.”
No homeowner had a problem with the 2 story limit when they moved here and no current owner has a problem with a 2 story commercial building today. The Lord Amherst is not intrusive. It fits. It is consistent with the surrounding residential use at its two story height.
But, fast forward, and shortly after the last residential parcel had been developed in the neighborhood, the town of Amherst officials, acting thru their agent, the ZBA, changed the rules, and paved the way for the 6+ story Iskalo Hyatt to proceed.
That was one year ago.
The neighbors sued and the case is on the court docket.
On Tuesday, the Zoning Board will hear an appeal from Livingston Parkway residents, commonly called the Pond Neighbors, to reverse yet another commissioner determination.
Iskalo and the pond neighbors disagree on the size and shape of the Mikes Pond. The pond is a 2-acre spring fed body of water, owned by the neighbors and is part of their backyards. Iskalo maintains that the pond is smaller that it is in actuality.
The commissioner has sided with the developer and allowed for the use of Iskalo’s representation of the size and shape of Mikes Pond in the Hyatt site plan. Because the Hyatt is actually too big for the available land, the use of the Iskalo pond dimensions will result in the Hyatt parking lot being built in the pond. (See attached overlay of the pond survey and the Hyatt site plan.)
The Pond Neighbors are requesting that the ZBA overturn the Commissioners decision to use the Iskalo survey of the pond and to, in its stead, use the owners survey which was approved by the Town Board when it approved the rezoning of Mikes Pond to residential use.
A large contingent from The FRIENDS OF MIKES POND, the red shirt wearing area residents who oppose a 6 story building are expected to be in attendance at the Zoning Board on Tuesday.
Michele Marconi said, “I have no idea what will occur. But the Zoning board has spent more time debating the sensibility of raising chickens in Eggertsville than they have discussing the impact of the Iskalo Hyatt in Snyder. The ZBA ruling in 2012 on building height was an egregious overstep and is being litigated. Their ruling on the Iskalo variance requests was arbitrary and capricious and is being litigated. However, I remain hopeful that we will get a fair and open hearing and that the appropriate decision will be rendered.”
The Town of Amherst ZBA has overruled a commissioner ruling exactly once.
And it was on this project and in favor of Iskalo.