Tonawanda News

The City

March 19, 2014

Zoning board appeals Highland decision

Tonawanda News — The City of Tonawanda Zoning Board of Appeals has filed an appeal of an Erie County judge’s decision granting People Inc. the zoning variances necessary for the redevelopment of the vacant Highland school.  

“The zoning board asked me to file a notice of appeal based upon the decision to grant the two variances, so I filed that notice,” City Attorney Ron Trabucco said.

Trabucco hasn’t formally submitted the appeal yet and a court date has not been set. At Tuesday night’s council meeting, the body retained attorney David Seeger to assist Trabucco with the process. 

Erie County Court Judge Tracey Bannister granted the variances in January after the Zoning Board of Appeals twice rejected the non-profit’s request. 

People Inc. plans to rent the building from owner S. Spoth, LLC, and turn it into 38 low-income apartments for young professionals, seniors and those with disabilities who earn less than $23,000 per year.

People Inc. Chief Operating Officer Rhonda Frederick said the construction will cost $6 million, and they are hoping to begin work in a year. If People Inc. is able to move forward with the project, the organization still needs to secure funding for the construction and negotiate a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the city.

The plans first hit a stumbling block last year when the group’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 as 135,500 square feet, while the lot size of the Highland property is significantly smaller — only 80,127 square feet.

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