Grand Islanders push back against luxury apartments

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) – A developer wants to build a large apartment complex on Grand Island, but a group of residents is pushing back.

Before the 400-unit luxury apartment complex can break ground on the far eastern end of the island, it has to be re-zoned, and neighbors are digging in their heels.

“This is a rural island. It’s been expanded that way,” says Joe Lalonde, spokesman for Stop Grand Island Zoning Change.

Of the 410 apartments planned by Rochester-based, Lighthouse Pointe, LLC, 150 would be for senior citizens. Thirty-seven of the 65 acres now owned by Golfview Properties, LLC would have to be re-zoned from R-2, as is most of the property nearby, to R-3, which allows multi-family rental units.

“A rental unit is a rental unit. It doesn’t make any difference what the cost of it is,” says Lalonde of the complex planned for East River Road near Whitehaven Road. A rental property is not owned by the person that is living in it “and that is not consistent with this neighborhood.”

Lighthouse Pointe has submitted to the town planning board calling for attached garages, private entrances, a clubhouse and a heated pool. Representatives want to meet with the neighbors and town officials for their input, but the neighbors seem staunchly opposed to rentals.

“We are not opposed to having this land developed with owner-occupied homes,” says Lalonde.

He argues the difference between paying rent and owning your home is that owning requires a vested interest.

Stop Grand Island Zoning Change is circulating petitions to oppose the change to R-3, and Lalonde says over 1,000 other Grand Islanders have signed the petition.

The Williamsville attorney for Lighthouse Pointe, Sean Hopkins, was unavailable for an interview, but did say they would like to work with neighbors to make this project happen. Rane Management, LLC held a second meeting with neighbors Tuesday night. They would be responsible for managing the luxury apartment complex.

“We’re here tonight] to address the neighbors’ concerns, and hopefully we can make them as happy as possible,” said Anthony Cutaia, President of Rane Management.

Lalonde says the community’s main concern is density.

“Not who’s going to live there, but the density would allow the amount of people to live in that space to double,” he explained. “When the homeowners that own in that area bought, they were never expecting that over a thousand people could be living in their backyard.”

To that end, Rane Management has widened a berm that would separate the complex from single-family homes on Timberlink Drive to the west. It has also scrapped plans to put pedestrian walkways and balconies on that side, incorporated more trees and landscaping, and added a second driveway on Whitehaven Road, replacing one originally planned for the East River Road side.

“We eliminated that, so traffic will flow through the commercial part of the property – there is a commercial component, for Phase III – and it’ll flow through there,” Cutaia said. “What we try to address are the concerns that are within our control – berms, buffers, traffic.”

Lalonde says that doesn’t even matter.

“It doesn’t make any difference where the trees are or where the berms are, there’s still going to be a thousand people living in an area that is designated for dramatically less population,” he contended.

The town board will hold a full public hearing to discuss the development on April 21st. Everyone with a vested interest – whether for or against the project – is urged to attend that meeting and voice his or her opinion.

The town board will take all of that into consideration before making a final decision.

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