BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Dozens of people rallied on the steps of City Hall on Monday evening, holding signs that said “include us”. The demonstration took place just half an hour before the Common Council’s first public hearing on the Green Code.
Residents at the rally are concerned that if the Green Code passes, as it’s currently written, out-of-town investors and developers will price long-time residents out of their neighborhoods.
“We must make our community affordable for everyone,” said Annette Lotte, who has lived in the Fruit Belt neighborhood her whole life. “Of course we want development but we do not want development at the expense of displacement.”
The group is calling on the Common Council to add inclusionary zoning to the Green Code. Inclusionary zoning would require a certain percentage of new housing to be developed specifically for low income residents.
“We have people in the Fruit Belt who are at poverty level, or below, who cannot afford the rents people are charging right now,” said Lotte.
The group packed into the Common Council chambers along with hundreds of people. Other organizations, like the Partnership for the Public Good, spoke out in support of inclusionary zoning.
Executive Director of Strategic Planning, Brendan Mehaffy, said the city has hired a consultant to look at whether inclusionary zoning will work in Buffalo.
“We asked the consultant to come up with a proposal by February to the Common Council,” said Mehaffy. “We’re still negotiating the implementation timeline for the Green Code so there might be a way to include that type of language in the Green Code when it becomes effective.”
Common Council members also told News 4 after the hearing they want to look at how to add the concept to the Green Code.
A handful of architects and residents spoke up in support of the Green Code, calling it a great improvement to the system currently in place.
“This shift to the Green Code is critical, it is forward looking and it speaks to growth, it speaks to what are we going to do next,” said one speaker.
Others at the hearing said they’re worried the Green Code could allow too much development at the Outer Harbor and called for more green space at the waterfront.
Elmwood Village residents voiced concern that developments proposed for Elmwood Ave. and Bidwell Parkway, and also Elmwood Ave. and Forest Ave. will get passed before the Green Code goes into effect, and won’t have to adhere to the new standards.
“We now have a code that we worked very hard on so it has to be enforced,” said Gretchen Cercone, with the Lancaster Ave. Block Club and Elmwood Village Green Code working group. “If we’re going to allow variances and people can build anything, then why did we do all of this work for people to come together and come to an agreement?”
Mehaffy told us after the meeting that the city hears those concerns and is working to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“In terms of the Elmwood-Forest and Bidwell-Elmwood projects, we would like to see they actually do go forward under the Green Code,” said Mehaffy. “This isn’t just those two projects, this is all projects in the Elmwood Village.”
Mehaffy said his office will work with the Common Council as it makes changes based on the concerns voiced Monday night. The Common Council will hold a second public hearing next Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at the Common Council chambers.