You’ve probably heard, at one point or another this past year about the Natale Development project slated for California Drive’s former Darling Construction site. To the developer’s credit, Natale has been at the table, ready to discuss and listen to the Village’s concerns in order to make this project an outstanding investment for the entire community. In case you’re just now tuning in, let me take a moment to review the recent timeline of this property with you.
May 2010: The Village Board unanimously approves the Village of Williamsville Community Plan, which identifies the Darling site and other commercial properties in the S. Long neighborhood be redeveloped one day, into housing.
Summer 2015: Darling Construction alerts the Village it will be relocating. Since all parties are aware of the Community Plan, Darling allowed the Village to “downzone” their property from a very liberal C-3 zoning, under which almost anything could have been built, to a residentially focused R3-M zoning.
Summer 2016: Natale Development acquires the 6-acre Darling property.
Fall 2016: Natale submits a site plan proposal to the Planning Board. Neighbors become very concerned that the area cannot handle the density and increased traffic. To help ameliorate, Natale proposes a driveway through the existing VillageDPW side-yard to allow traffic out onto S. Long. No formal purchase offer was ever made to the Village for the property, which currently houses the Village’s Department of Public Works side yard. Neighbors strongly opposed this proposal.
Winter 2017: The Village Board hosted a series of planning walks and exercises to hear resident’s feedback. These meetings were publicized on the Village website & Facebook page, and were sent out in an email to anyone who attended or signed up to be on the list. The first two workshops were well attended, and consisted of a snowy neighborhood walk & SWOT analysis; and a planning day with notes taken on maps and Legos used to illustrate scale. The idea of a “landswap” came into focus as a means to alleviate traffic and spread out the development: swapping the north western corner of the park for the western portion of Natale’s property. The park would be reoriented. The Village and Natale began exploring other options that might be feasible.
Spring 2017: A third meeting was scheduled, and a proposed 2.1 acre swap was illustrated and presented to the community. Not everyone thought that the full 2.1 acres should be traded, so the Village went back to the developer and asked that the amount of land to be transferred be reduced. At a fourth meeting at the beginning of May, a 1.8 acre version of the swap is presented. The neighborhood is mostly in favor at this time, but a group opposed asks for it to be further explored and to allow the entire Village to participate in the process.
Summer 2017: At this point, it is clear that no land swap could be approved at the State level until 2018. The Village Board needs to know if the developer is still interested in furthering the negotiations and waiting until 2018 for approvals. Simultaneously, the Board is continuing to listen to residents and is considering various options to move forward as a community to further the planning process for whatever development may come to fruition in the S. Long neighborhood. Stay tuned for further updates!