Three acre piece of land causes debate in Amherst

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB)- A roughly three acre piece of land in Amherst is getting a lot of attention. It’s next to the Northtown Center and the Town of Amherst is looking at building a hotel on it.

Last year 582 teams played at the Northtown Center, accumulating 13,000 hotel nights, according to General Manager Eric Guzdek.

“We’re doing a major even basically every other weekend,” said Guzdek.

He is also the Town of Amherst recreational specialist. Guzdek told News 4 that last fall the town put out a request for proposals for the hotel. In February, the town received proposals from developers.

The 2.95 acre piece of land is currently a retention pond, located in the Audubon Recreation Complex. It can only be used as a park.

“There’s a committee taking a look at what our options are as we move forward with a hotel proposal,” said Guzdek. “Right now we’re asking for an alienation so it can be studied.”

Alienation means those nearly three acres could be developed for non-park uses. If it’s approved, three acres of green space would have to be established somewhere else to make up for the loss in park land.

“They’re taking away the protections, they’ve stripped them away and the town gets to do whatever it wants,” said Alissa Sheilds, an Amherst resident.

Sheilds was one of about half a dozen residents who spoke up against the alienation, voicing concerns that there are already too many hotels and the town needs more parks.

“We’re exhausted from having green spaces being robbed from our town,” she said.

The town board voted 4 to 1 to move forward with the alienation.

“Whatever we do moving forward, I think steps are going to be taken so we can cautiously look at what we want to do,” said Guzdek. “We’re not just jumping into this saying ‘let’s do this’, we want to be careful in what we’re doing.”

The town will vote again once the location of the new park is determined.

The State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo also have to sign off on the alienation of this 2.95 acre piece of land.

Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein said if the state doesn’t make a decision before the legislative session ends in June, they will have to wait until next year for approval.

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