Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) A Shill for Developers or Gross Incompetence?

The following 2 messages were sent by a concerned reader.
Written by: Judy Ferraro

Message to Town Board April 26, 2017

It is remarkable that we have people running our town who are… bilingual.  In addition to the English language, they are fluent in Weasel.  A language employed to distort and deceive to accomplish an agenda. An agenda that operates against the will of the people, preferably by stealth.

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on April 18 is a screaming example of that proficiency.   I encourage everyone to view the video.    Board members, in addition to the attorney for 190 Maple Road made a disgraceful case to undermine and overturn the 4-l rezone decision, 90 days prior, by our elected Town Board and a supermajority petition, meant to protect against abusive development in neighborhoods.  The bilinguals dismissed the Town Board directly or by implication as merely political,  revengeful,  no stated reasons to deny, etc.  All nonsense, unprofessional and slanderous of Town Board members.

The ZBA, has five criteria that they follow to determine variances.  They, in their bias of the day, and ignorance of the subject, determine interpretation. Yet, they are unable or unwilling to discern fact from lies. One only has to look around to see the results of their genius. The Hyatt Hotel stands out as their most obnoxious distortion of words and facts using the “criteria” chart.   They allowed 11 variances resulting in a totally inappropriate monstrosity in the middle of a residential neighborhood that continues to cause disgust among Amherst residents.  It stands as a monument to corruption for all to see.

The Town Board was well-aware of the 190 Maple Rd. site and were indeed versed on the ramifications of such a rezone fitting and exceeding the 5-point criteria the ZBA used.  Problems, such as: existing faulty infrastructure, traffic, sewage, drainage, wetlands, stormwater runoff, dangerous road conditions on a narrow residential street.  Moreover, the thousands of feet of available office space, medical or otherwise, for any doctor feeling a need to move.

The Town Board listened to the people living in a residential neighborhood slowly being swallowed by mindless urban sprawl, using one development to justify another.  A common occurrence that some members of our Town Board are trying to stop, in an effort to protect people and their neighborhoods, called for in the Comprehensive Plan.

Catering to people trying to extract an unreasonable profit on their investment while ignoring the reduced value on people’s investment surrounding the area and the consequences they are forced to suffer, should NEVER be a consideration… FOR ANYONE…EVER.  Nonetheless, the bilinguals and the invited “expert” tried to sell that outrageous notion.  If that is an interpretation of law, it is misguided and needs to end.  And, It should NEVER/EVER be used to justify a rezone.  Not even for the crony/entitlement/donor class.

The ZBA board demonstrated a high level of disdain and disrespect for our elected Town Board and the people of Amherst.  Effectively, the ZBA rendered our elected Town Board IRRELEVANT,  residents voices and protective petitions IRRELEVANT,  residential zoning codes IRRELEVANT.

They anointed themselves the superior body in assessing the same information, manipulating the 5-point chart to fit their agenda.

They, engaged their second language to defy the Town Board and the homeowners by legitimizing an attorney with known Weasel proficiency whose razzle/dazzle rants, well beyond allotted time, impressed those not schooled in the facts.

This is a flagrant abuse of power.  Outside consultants are telling us all that Amherst is built out.  We do not need more hotels, apartments, business/medical offices, etc.   Redevelopment is in order.  Infringing on residential neighborhoods and green space is pernicious and wrongheaded.

By this time, there should be a learning curve kicking in.  Urban sprawl, exploiting neighborhoods and green space is devastating and is awakening more people to what power in
the wrong hands produces.

This ZBA must be reined in or at least be required to learn and understand their own criteria and not rely on anyone else’s warped opinions.

The take away from that meeting is that everything is a charade and a fraud. Amherst people have no voice, no power…and neither do our elected Town Board members.  That behavior illustrates an overt and utter collapse of any pretense of a legitimate, representative government.

I commend four on this Town Board for trying to represent and work in the best interest of the people, not for the insatiable capitalist cronies who have been allowed to hijack our community.

Message Sent to Town Board, April 30,2017
I’m sending pertinent information regarding the 190 Maple Road property that you voted 4/1 to deny a rezone and SEQRA approval.
The first link is New York State’s ZBA Review.

Introduction reads:   “The protections afforded residents and property owners within the community from undesirable development come from the restrictiveness of zoning.”

The USE variance establishes FOUR criteria that are ALL REQUIRED to be met.  The USE variance is what was used to overturn your rezone denial.
The ZBA must review criteria for a USE variance and “find” or conclude that ALL tests have been met.   They did not do that because it cannot legitimately
be done.   USE variances starts on page 11…please read through to page 16…”final word on use variances.”

Note:   Hardships?…No way.   The seller never listed the property as just residential.   Started out listing at $750,000 as “residential or could be zoned commercial.”
If a reasonable price were asked, it would sell..just like any property, anywhere.   We don’t always make a profit or even break even on our home “investment.”
Creating a false hardship is exactly what has happened here.   Both by the owner by asking an outrageous amount for his house, resulting in an inability
to sell.   And, the doctors having many thousands of office space available, preferring to zero in on a residential home/neighborhood and expecting a rezone.
These self-created hardships ALONE are all that is needed for the ZBA to deny a USE variance.

Now, after reading what the law requires.   PLEASE go to the video of the ZBA meeting on April 18, 2017.   Maple Road’s hearing starts at approximately 3:07.
The ZBA discussion starts at approximately 4:36.    They did NOT go through the criteria AS REQUIRED.  It is a shameful mockery and subversion of State law and our Town Board.
Viewing Area variances is another trip into the “Twilight Zone.”

I’m asking you all again to challenge the ruling by the ZBA.  You should not need more evidence than these two links to convince you.  This whole fiasco has succeeded
in highlighting the abuse that happens when we have people that do not understand laws or are unwilling to follow them.   The public, as more and more of their voices
are being smothered, is now hyperaware of governance gone wild, at their expense.

There is no better way to spend our tax dollars than to send a clear message that you will not tolerate such incompetent activity, perpetrated against homeowners and
our elected Town Board.  It is behavior that undermines the very foundation of representative governance.   There has to be accountability for wrongdoing and you
are the right people to do it.

10 Responses to “Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) A Shill for Developers or Gross Incompetence?”

  1. Aaron says:

    I watched the meeting. I recommend that everyone do the same. It is the government, under Barry Weinstein, that has brought us unbelievably ignorant characters that are allowed to control positions that are effecting our lives. Admittedly, I do not understand the use and area variances but I do understand when people are getting screwed by the ones elected to represent them and their concerns. The zba overturned a denial of a rezone! They used stupid reasoning that defies common sense. It can’t possibly be lawful, in the real world.

    I’m not as charitable as the writer. I see the zba board as agents of the town board. They chose these people. If they want to undue the damage that their stooges have done in undermining the few protections homeowners felt they had, get rid of them, today.

    They have all been unmasked. In case anyone is clinging to the illusion of government by, for, of the people, think again.
    The swamp needs draining. Nice job Barry Weinstein. Are you holding the plug?

  2. Paula says:

    Can I vote both? Looks like gross incompetence, stupidity and skill in shilling is resume enhancing, under Weinstein. Makes them easier to control. Anyone that knows anything about use variances can see and hear that this board is completely out of their league and is an embarrassment. The town lawyers have to know. Unless they are in the same category.

    Either we are a town of laws or we are not. God help us.

  3. William says:

    Weinstein is always boasting about a scandal-free administration. If this isn’t one to add to the others, don’t know what is.
    The worst of the lot on the ZBA are the ones chosen by Weinstein, over the past years. All dutifully fulfilling the crony-capitalism meme.

    The public must look at the video. Watch the part where the board is being told how to calculate the assessment on property by a paid-for liar. It is unbelievable! If only we could make that argument on our residential property. They bought that load too! It is clear these are the dumbest of the dumb deciding the fate of homeowners. Forget a “learning curve,” they don’t know the rudimentary difference between right and wrong, common sense and no sense, fact and lies, law and lawlessness.

    The town board has the power and obligation to rectify this horrendous abuse of power, by their selected people.
    It is called taking responsibility for one’s actions and mistakes.

    Did I see ZBA members who are also in on the “Imagine Amherst-The Gift to Developers’ Plan?” That alone red flags the whole
    project. “The Developers’ Plan” will permit building and businesses in neighborhoods with little or no recourse for homeowners. Like what happened with the methadone clinic on Millersport.

  4. michele says:

    During a sometimes chaotic 6 hr ZBA meeting, the board voted to grant a variance to 190 Maple overturning the Town board’s denial to the exact same request to change the zoning of a single family house to commercial use. A super majority of the Town Board denied the request, set a policy of no rezoning residential properties to commercial use and that this particular property was not unique and did not qualify for the exceptions under the law.
    But in a surreal meeting, live streamed and on video the ZBA approved what’s called a use variance, essentially rezoning the property. Under 4 specific criteria, all which must be met, the ZBA can legally overturn a Town Board decision. And they did. But the requirements are stringent and have a high standard with written findings of approval required to be issued in 5 days or by April 25. It is unclear what these findings provide or if they exist.
    I was surprised by the ZBAs action. I would have bet that it was DOA. And felt “mildly nauseous” when I watched the video of a ZBA member literally reading a long document into the record followed by a bizarre discussion of ambulances on Maple road. And no, Im not making this up.
    The ZBA is the single most powerful board in town. It is a quasi-judicial escape valve in which zoning laws are waived. It is a power to be used based on reasonable review under the legal standard proscribed in a limited and narrow manner. Something is broken here. Either you have the wrong members, they are untrained, or unorganized, weren’t properly prepared by town staff responsible for this or just had a bad night. But something is terribly wrong nonetheless.

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    This May 16th we all get a chance to witness how our “highly skilled” ZBA decides on an application for a use variance that could overturn another the denial of a Town Board rezoning. After the paper thin veneer of reasoning by the ZBA for the 190 Maple Rd use variance nullifying the denial of a Town Board rezoning, will it happen again?

    I hope ZBA members will has enough sense to actually dig into ALL the materials submitted by the petitioner now., especially that provided by “competent financial sources”.

    For the complete list of ZBA requests for May 16, 2017 follow the link below (item 11)

    Here is a short excerpt of item 11,
    APPLICANT: Barclay Damon, LLP 4400 North French Road Use Variance

    This application is for a Use Variance for 2 (two) 12 (twelve) unit apartment buildings and 4 (four) Area Variances in the SA District.

    1) Use Variance: Per Section 3-3 -2 A, Attached dwelling unit are not a permitted use in the SA District.

    NOTES: January 20, 2017 The Town Board denied the rezoning from SA to MFR-5.

    What must be proven in order to be granted a use variance?

    If requesting a use variance, that is, permission to establish a use of property not otherwise permitted
    in the zoning district, the applicant must prove “unnecessary hardship.”

    To prove this, New York State law requires the applicant to show all of the following:

    (1) that the property is incapable of earning a reasonable return on initial investment if used
    for any of the allowed uses in the district (actual “dollars and cents” proof must be

    (2) that the property is being affected by unique, or at least highly uncommon circumstances;

    (3) that the variance, if granted, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood; and

    (4) that the hardship is not self-created.

    If any one or more of the above factors is not proven, State law requires that the ZBA must deny the

    Hope to see some more people at this meeting, … I’ll be there!

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    Please note that the document for the next ZBA meeting prepared by Brian P. Andrzejewski, P.E., Commissioner of Building stating that the rezoning was denied at the January 20, 2017 Town Board meeting is WRONG! The Town Board meeting in January was on the 17th.

    The rezoning was denied at the March 20, 2017 meeting.

    Good luck next time Brian!


  7. Alex says:

    Amherst Times, kudos for printing this story and giving other people an opportunity to educate those of us who are not paying attention to the depth of corruption going on before our eyes. “Corruption” doesn’t even cover it. We have been lead to believe, the town board is the be all, end all. Where are they? One ones that campaigned on cleaning up the pollution at town hall? It appears they have become part of it. What about the attorneys? Are they in on orchestrating against the community where their time and our money are spent scrambling to cover the butts of the corrupted, using phony, made-up laws of their own?

    For anyone reading all of this story and watching the video, it is total FUBAR. Our money wasted to work against us, including the latest raises they had the audacity to approve for themselves.

    A letter in the Buffalo News explains that the town clerk has also been afflicted with the malady, ignore-real-law-and-make-up-your-own syndrome.

    We get another shot at cleaning up FUBAR Amherst in November. Remember the names of the players involved. Party does not matter.

    FUBAR Amherst desperately needs a legitimate rescue team.

  8. Kevin says:

    Hey Tom, not sure of your point relative to the ZBA.

    Try going back to all the previous meetings that the board had to suffer through with the usual Hopkins meanderings on the 190 rezone. They didn’t have to state reasons, again. By that time, it was understood.

  9. Bobby says:

    Amherst politics is even more corrupt than I was warned when considering moving here. I’m paying high taxes to live in a nice house and neighborhood. I see now, if someone with a load of BS and a load of money, can change everything. My tax dollars buys me no protection. The people I’m paying to represent me are representing others, not in my best interest. Most places pay lawyers to wade through BS and keep the machine honest. Where are they? Or, are they part of the well-oiled, dishonest machine?

    Seems to me taxpayers would save a ton of money by having the developers pay their wages. Dropping the AIDA welfare program, given to the same bunch, would save a ton too.

  10. Lynne says:

    In scrolling down the Amherst Times entries and all the comments, one can’t help but think the wheels are coming off Weinstein and his cronies’ gravy train. Each day reveals more corrupt and unethical behavior. Weasel language doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    This particular entry outlines egregious beyond imagining. A lawyer will cut this and those involved to ribbons. Will no doubt find it to be only the tip of the iceberg.

    Scrolling down this site one begins to understand the corruption that is running rampant in Amherst. Amherst has weasel talkers, for sure. Unfortunately, there are weasel actors too.