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December 14, 2013

School project still in limbo

Tonawanda News — People Inc.’s planned development of Highland School in the City of Tonawanda is back in the local zoning board’s hands after an Erie County judge remanded the case, City Attorney Ron Trabucco said.

Judge Tracey Bannister ordered the City of Tonawanda Zoning Board of Appeals, which previously denied the nonprofit’s variance application, to reconsider the matter.

“The judge gave People Inc. the opportunity to present any additional factors, or documentation or evidence,” Trabucco said. 

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday.

Although Trabucco and the People Inc.’s attorney, Sean Hopkins, attempted to settle the issue outside of the courtroom, their discussions on the matter did not result in a deal.

The parties met in October and discussed holding an informational presentation on the project and the variances, but the zoning board did not agree to the meeting, and the two attorneys then met in court.

People Inc. hopes to rent the building from its owner, S. Spoth, LLC, and create 38 multi-use apartments for seniors, young professionals and those with disabilities.

The plans hit a stumbling block last year when the nonprofit’s application for a building permit was denied. In a letter to the nonprofit, Building Inspector Kevin Rank said the plans were inconsistent with four zoning regulations.

The width as well as the surface area of the parking lot are not big enough for the project, Rank said. His letter stated the city’s minimum lot size for the project is listed 135,500 square feet, while the lot size of the Highland property is significantly smaller — only 80,127 square feet.

The location of the parking lots as well as the number of spots were also not up to code.

In response, People Inc., filed a variance request to relieve them from the four zoning issues, arguing the project wouldn’t have a significant impact on the surrounding area.

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