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County planning board votes against proposed 55-and-older complex on West Main Road, Batavia

Concerns about adequate parking and emergency vehicle access led the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night to recommend against approval for a senior housing apartment complex off Route 5 in the Town of Batavia.

The board's vote is not binding, but it does require the Town of Batavia Planning Board to vote with a +1 margin to approve the project.

The site for the project is 3833 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. It is 33.4 acres and would contain 110 apartment units that would be marketed to middle-income residents age 55 and older.

There's currently no senior housing in the area designed for middle-income residents, said Ben Gustafson, a civil engineer with Hunt Engineers/Architects/Surveyors, and representing the developer, Calamar.

The project calls for 1.5 parking spaces per unit, which is a variance from the town's 2-per unit ordinance. 

Gustafson explained that two per unit is excessive by modern planning standards, the county's own planning goals and what Calamar's studies of its own 15 similar complexes shows is necessary.

In some Calamar locations, the local ordinance requires only one parking space, but even there, because of Calamar's own experience, they put in 1.5.

"What we're proposing is in keeping with sustainable development throughout this country by not providing more parking than is required," Gustafson said. "Our studies show we need far less than two spaces per unit."

Multiple board members expressed concern about 1.5 parking spaces, even so.

"The 1.5 parking per unit is unrealistic," said Mel Wentland, board chairman. "For 55 and older, both members of the family usually have cars. You're under-populating parking spaces. There should be two per unit. There are also people coming to visit, nurses aides, various kinds of help. I don't think the parking (the plan) provides is adequate to meet all the needs of such a community."

Gustafson said it's common for residents in these communities to not even have cars, but if the parking proved inadequate, there's plenty of space on the property that could later be converted to parking if needed.

Another issue is the single driveway for the complex off Route 5.

The main concern of the board is access for emergency vehicles -- what if traffic is tying up the driveway, or there's an accident in front of it?

According to Gustafson, there are fewer than 30 cars an hour that will pass through the driveway, far less than similar-sized units serving younger families. The traffic impact will be minimal and the wide driveway will provide ample room for emergency vehicles.

Board Member Lucine Kauffman said no one on the board is arguing against the need for the project, but that these issues should be addressed before it's approved for development.

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