The City of Buffalo’s Planning Board conducted a public hearing late this afternoon – Dec. 5, 2016 – concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS] and design and site application for Chason Affinity’s proposed “1111 Elmwood” mixed-use project at the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues at the northern boundary of one of Buffalo’s most popular and desirable neighborhoods, the Elmwood Village. The room was hot and overcrowded, with residents for and against the 5-story, 166,000-square-foot building spilling out into the adjoining hallway.
First we heard from the developer’s lawyer. Then the project’s architect, an amiable chap, who felt obliged to spend an inordinate amount of time telling the assembled – with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation – just how much worse the earlier iterations of the developer’s plans were. [You can almost be certain that a proposed development is terribly unsuited for a neighborhood if its architect or lawyer is telling tell you how much worse the developer’s original plans were.] Then the developer spoke. When it was finally the public’s turn, we were told that we had three minutes each to provide our comments regarding a 160-page DEIS, the dozen or so appendices that accompanied it, and the project’s design and site plan.
Well, anyone who has visited this blog in the past knows that three minutes just isn’t enough for me to share my thoughts. Fortunately, I had a 14-page letter (with exhibits attached) to hand to the Planning Board chair. What is important for the public to know is that written comments can be submitted to the City Planning Board – at Buffalo City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Room 901, Buffalo, NY 14202-3318 – through December 19, 2016. State law mandates that the Planning Board, as the “lead agency” conducting the environmental review, must respond in the Final EIS to “all substantive comments” it receives regarding the Draft EIS. If you are interested in my thoughts, READ ON:
December 5, 2016
Re: Chason Affinity’s proposed project at 1111 Elmwood Ave.
Dear City Planning Board:
I am providing these comments to you on behalf of my client, Sandra Girage, the owner of 611 Forest Avenue. Her two-family residence is located immediately adjacent to Chason Affinity’s property at 607 Forest Avenue. My comments will focus primarily on the inaccuracies and omissions in the project sponsor’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS]:
FIRST, as an attorney who has been reviewing DEIS’s for over a quarter-century, I knew that the DEIS “accepted” as adequate for public review by this board would be remarkably one-sided and subjective when I read the following statement in the DEIS Introduction: “The FEAF [Full Environmental Assessment From] does not identify any potentially significant environmental impacts associated with the project that would mandate the preparation of an EIS under SEQRA.” [DEIS, p. 14] That statement should have been recognized as a “red flag” mandating a critical assessment of the scope, content, and adequacy of the DEIS prior to its acceptance.
SECOND, the DEIS states that, “The Project aims to transform the Site into one more consistent with prevailing Elmwood Village design standards… [EVDS]” This assertion inaccurately suggests that the EVDS criteria (mixed-use buildings constructed at the sidewalk, etc.) applies to every parcel within its boundaries. That claim is false. As clearly stated at Section 511-155(b)(1) of the City’s zoning ordinance: “The Elmwood Village Design Standards District shall include all commercial properties abutting Elmwood Avenue between Forest Avenue and North Street,” as well as “all commercial properties abutting” specified east-west spurs, including Forest between Richmond and Granger. In other words, the eight residential properties included within Affinity’s twelve parcels – six on Elmwood, and two around the corner on Forest – are NOT included in the EVDS, and, therefore, are not inconsistent with the expressed standards. [See EVDSD-section-511-155-amended-06-11.]
THIRD, the supposed “Need” for the project lacks factual support, and is full of ironic assertions and mischaracterizations of the Elmwood Village and the City of Buffalo. [DEIS, pp. 14-15] Here are two examples:
*** According to the DEIS, “Like many other cities across the United States, the City of Buffalo has a relatively low supply of housing for newcomers who wish to remain in the City.” No data is provided to support this assertion. And it would probably surprise the head of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning, Brendan Mehaffy. A year ago, during a panel discussion at Medaille College entitled “Is Buffalo really a housing boom town?”, Brendan gushed that, yes, indeed, Buffalo was experiencing a “housing boom” with 3,900 new units having been added since 2012.
*** In the words of the DEIS’ authors, the Elmwood Village “is increasingly desirable due to its intact urban fabric, recognizable thriving commercial district and proximity to high-quality public space.” Ironically, the proposed 166,000-square-foot project would rip apart the “intact urban fabric” by demolishing a dozen century-old buildings that are all “contributing” to the recently listed Elmwood Village Historic District (East)” on the National Register of Historic Places. And, to add insult to injury, Affinity wants to replace the “recognizable thriving business district” with an out-of-scale structure that is the antithesis of the “bohemian atmosphere” praised in a 2009 study prepared by Chason Affinity’s consultant, Pinnacle Advisory Group:
… The existing development in the immediate and surrounding neighborhood consists primarily of single family homes and free-standing homes that have been converted into apartment rentals … [T]he bohemian atmosphere and the numerous independent boutique shops and restaurants have helped to make the area around Elmwood and Forest [avenues] one of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in Buffalo. ” [Emphasis added.]
FOURTH, proponents of the existing character of the Elmwood Village will not be fooled by a five-story, 166,000-square-foot building that supposedly has the “appearance of multiple structures” and will “’read’ as a three-story building” [as a result of the 4th and 5th stories being “stepped back”]. The proposed project will be demonstrably out-of-scale and character, and have a much greater density, than the existing Elmwood Village as a whole, and, more importantly for the purposes of SEQRA, the neighborhood immediately surrounding the Chason Affinity project. This board must not be distracted by comparison between the proposed 5-story structure and buildings in other neighborhoods (and, even other cities!), especially if those buildings have a much smaller footprint than the proposed 1111 Elmwood Ave. project. On behalf of my client, I ask you to consider the property information available at the City of Buffalo’s website concerning the existing neighborhood, which demonstrates the following facts:
(a) Affinity’s project is grossly inconsistent with the scale and character of the 12 primary structures it would replace. Eleven of the twelve existing structures on the 12 parcels comprising the Chason Affinity project – that is, 1091 through 1121 Elmwood Ave., and 605 and 607 Forest Ave. – are two- and two-and-a-half story structures on single, moderate-size lots. The twelfth structure – at 1111 Elmwood Avenue – is a 1.3-story single-family residence. The twelve structures have a total gross floor area of 34,062 square feet, 20.5% of the total gross floor area of the proposed project, 166,000 square feet. [Attached as Exhibit A is pertinent “Property Information” material re 1091 through 1121 Elmwood Ave., and 605 and 607 Forest Ave.]
(b) Affinity’s project is grossly inconsistent with the scale and character of the ten adjacent residences on Forest Ave. and Granger Place. Nine of the ten structures on Granger Place [64 through 36 Granger Pl.] and Forest Avenue [611 Forest Ave.] abutting or immediately adjacent to the Chason Affinity property are 2-family residences, and the tenth structure is a three-family residence. The ten parcels are all developed with two- and two-and-a-half story structures on single, moderate-size lots, setback from the public right-of-way by front lawns, and have a total gross floor area of 25,105 square feet, 15.1% of the total gross floor area of the proposed project, 166,000 square feet. [Attached as Exhibit B is pertinent “Property Information” material re 64 through 36 Granger Pl. and 611 Forest Avenue (Sandra Girage’s property.]
(c) Affinity’s project is grossly inconsistent with the scale of the commercial buildings directly across street on the west side of Elmwood Avenue. The six buildings on the west side of Elmwood Ave. directly across Elmwood from the proposed Chason project – that is, 1122, 1116, 1108, 1104, 1096 and 1094 Elmwood – are all 2-stories in height, and have a combined gross floor area of 35,224 square feet, 21.2% of the total gross floor area of the proposed project, 166,000 square feet. [Attached as Exhibit C is pertinent “Property Information” material re 1094 through 1122 Elmwood Ave.]
(d) Affinity’s project is grossly inconsistent with the scale and character of the single-family residences on the east side of Elmwood Ave. immediately north of the corner of Elmwood & Forest. Although you would never know it from reading the DEIS, but starting barely 100 feet from the northeast corner of Elmwood and Forest, and extending along the east side of Elmwood for 18 parcels, are eighteen single-family residences. Ten of the twelve residences closest to the Chason Affinity project are 2-story structures, one is a 1.5-story home, and one a 2.5-story home. These dozen parcels are zoned R1, are moderate in size, and the houses are setback from the public right-of-way by front lawns. The total gross floor area of these 12 residences is 25,167 square feet, or 15.2% of the total gross floor area of the proposed project, 166,000 square feet. [Attached as Exhibit D is pertinent “Property Information” material re 1143 through 1187 Elmwood Ave.]
The stunning contrast between the proposed project and the existing neighborhood and community character and scale constitutes a “significant adverse environmental impact.” As a result, this body, as lead agency, is obligated under SEQRA to “incorporate as conditions” to any decision approving the project “mitigative measures” that will avoid or minimize adverse impacts “to the maximum extent practicable.” [6 NYCRR 617.9(b)(7)] More specifically, SEQRA expressly provides all lead agencies with the authority to impose substantive conditions upon an action that are deemed “practicable and reasonably related” to the identified adverse impacts. [6 NYCRR 617.3(b)] In this instance, that would mean strictly limiting the height, square-footage, and footprint of the proposed project.
FIFTH, the DEIS misleads this board and the public regarding the character of the adjoining neighborhood through what it omits. The DEIS appendices include a blue-starred map of properties on Elmwood Avenue with “Residential Only” usage. The project sponsor omits, however, a similar blue-starred map reflecting the fact that each and every property on the Forest Ave. block between Elmwood and Granger adjacent to the project site – including the pair of two-family residences at 605 and 607 Forest that Chason Affinity proposes to demolish – as well as the property directly across Forest from 605 and 607 Forest at 2 Penhurst Park, and each and every Granger Place property to the east of the proposed multi-use project, are utilized solely for residential purposes. Here’s what such a map would look like:
SIXTH, the fact that a dozen “Residential Only” properties – including one single-family, ten two-family, and one three-family houses – adjoin the project site underscores the disservice the DEIS performs when it downplays the adverse impacts that would result during the projected 18-month construction period. The DEIS acknowledges that “[c]onstruction activity noises are expected to result from delivery of materials, installation of materials, and operation of heavy machinery and equipment,” [DEIS, 11] and that, in addition to noise, construction will create adverse air quality, parking and visual impacts [DEIS, p. 58]. Nonetheless, it minimizes the impacts by characterizing them as “short term” or, as in the case of dust, “a temporary nuisance.” [DEIS p. 53] That temporary nuisance, daily from 7AM to 7PM, will feel like an eternity if you are Sandra Girage’s tenants at 611 Forest Ave., or the octogenarian widow who lives at 2 Penhurst Park, or any of the adjacent Granger Place homeowners and tenants.
SEVENTH, the SEQRA regulations state that a DEIS must include “a description of the mitigation measures.” [6 NYCRR 617.9(b)(5)(iv)] Given this mandate, it is wholly inadequate for the DEIS to state that, “A traffic and vehicle access plan will be prepared and used for worker and delivery access to the Site,” and not provide details of the plan. [DEIS, pp. 11, 53] This is especially true given the proximity of nearby residences, the busy nature of the Elmwood/Forest intersection, the existing sparsity of on-street parking, and the admission in the DEIS that, “Large volumes of construction related vehicles are expected Monday through Friday” during the 18-month construction period.
EIGHTH, in an attempt to minimize the historic significance of the dozen primary structures proposed for demolition by Affinity – despite their contributions to the newly recognized Elmwood Village Historic District (East) – the author of the DEIS has the nerve to make the following assertions: “some have been affected by the removal of porches and other building alterations,” and “the Project is expected to enhance the appearance of the existing deteriorating buildings at the corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenues.” What makes these statements so brazen are the following facts: Affinity has owned all but one of these properties (1091 Elmwood) since 2009, and has continued collecting rents from retail and residential tenants throughout much of this period. It is Affinity that is responsible for the current condition of the buildings they want to demolish. Also, as these before-and-after photos (taken subsequent to Chason Affinity’s purchase of the properties, and prior to the property’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places) reflect, it was Affinity that decided to remove – rather than repair – the porches at 1113 Elmwood Avenue:
It may be inconvenient for the project sponsor, but this board, as the SEQRA lead agency, must keep firmly in mind the words contained in the two April 25, 2016 letters sent to Chason Affinity by the State’s Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, Ruth L. Pierpont (included in Appendix D of the DEIS) regarding ten properties the project sponsor would like to demolish on and near the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues: “… [T]he National Register [of Historic Places] is the nation’s official list of properties worthy of preservation. Listing on the National Register recognizes the importance of these properties to the history of our country…” The Deputy Commissioner’s statement is in stark contrast to the false assertion at page 15 of the DEIS: “None of these structures have any reported historical or architectural significance.”
NINTH, the DEIS contains no data or analysis to support its conclusion that existing infrastructure “contains excess capacity for additional development.” [DEIS, p. 58] The adjacent residential community has questioned the adequacy of the existing sanitary sewer system for many years. SEQRA and fairness to the existing neighborhood mandate a thorough review of this potential area of environmental concern.
TENTH, the relevant “scale” and comparisons for this board to keep in mind when assessing the proposed project’s height and impacts on the existing neighborhood character and aesthetics are found at in the EVDS, not in Appendix G (Illustrative Scale Design) of the DEIS:
As stated at Section 511-155(G)(1)(a) of Buffalo’s zoning code, the predominant height of buildings in the Elmwood Village Design District “is between two and 2 ½ stories,” and “new buildings shall respect the predominant height of buildings within the area.” The fact that the EVDS provision states that “buildings of more than five stories” are inappropriate does NOT mean that Chason Affinity has the right under the existing zoning code to construct a five-story building. This board must also ask the question: Does a five-story structure “respect the predominant height of buildings” in the area? It is my client’s opinion that it does not. If allowed to proceed, the proposed 5-story “1111 Elmwood” project would be between 2.5- and 3-stories taller than the closest building on Elmwood Ave. (Pano’s restaurant at 1081 Elmwood), and on Forest Ave. (Sandra Girage’s house at 611 Forest Ave.), and each of the residences on Granger Place immediately to the rear of the proposed 166,000-square-foot development.
ELEVENTH, the “Alternatives Analysis” in the DEIS [DEIS, pp. 55-56] fails miserably in complying with either the letter or spirit of the “reasonable alternatives” analysis mandated by the SEQRA regulations:
617.9 Preparation and content of environmental impact statements
(b) Environmental impact statement content.
(5) The format of the draft EIS may be flexible; however, all draft EISs must include the following elements:
(v) a description and evaluation of the range of reasonable alternatives to the action that are feasible, considering the objectives and capabilities of the project sponsor. The description and evaluation of each alternative should be at a level of detail sufficient to permit a comparative assessment of the alternatives discussed. The range of alternatives must include the no action alternative. The no action alternative discussion should evaluate the adverse or beneficial site changes that are likely to occur in the reasonably foreseeable future, in the absence of the proposed action. The range of alternatives may also include, as appropriate, alternative: (a) sites; (b) technology; (c) scale or magnitude; (d) design; (e) timing; (f) use; and (g) types of action. For private project sponsors, any alternative for which no discretionary approvals are needed may be described. Site alternatives may be limited to parcels owned by, or under option to, a private project sponsor;
For example, the SEQRA regulations require that, “The description and evaluation of each alternative should be at a level of detail sufficient to permit a comparative assessment of the alternatives discussed.” Rather than meet this standard, the DEIS’ “Alternatives Analysis” provides no meaningful data or detailed evaluation of any kind. Instead we are given clichés about how wonderful the preferred alternative is. The discussion of the “No Action Alternative” repeats the same misleading assertion contained in the DEIS’ discussion of the project’s need and purpose, that is, “that the current structures do not conform to the existing Elmwood Village Design Standards, due to their significant setback form the street.” In fact, the EVDS standards only apply to “commercial properties,” and, therefore, the eight “residential only” properties owned by Chason Affinity are not out-of-compliance. Additionally, the project sponsor has failed to analyze the types of alternatives which would offer a meaningful comparison with the proposed action: a significantly shorter building with a substantially smaller footprint, or an “alternative for which no discretionary approvals are needed” (that is, no rezoning and no variances).
TWELTH, the DEIS is correct when it states that “the Elmwood Village is a thriving neighborhood,” but its claim that the thriving nature of this neighborhood is due to its “evolving mix of architectural styles and building scales” is self-serving and inaccurate. My client believes that the former Director of Zoning for the City of Rochester, Arthur J. Ientilucci, AICP, accurately explained the reasons for the success and attractiveness of the Elmwood Village when he identified the balance the Elmwood Village achieved over the years “between residential and non-residential use both in terms of density, concentration and scale.” As Mr. Ientilucci stated in 2013:
“Elmwood Village … is a distinct, recognizable urban district characterized by a mix of residential, boutique and small scale commercial uses… This is an urban neighborhood and not simply a commercial area bounded by residential areas.
Elmwood Village is a thriving mixed use urban neighborhood with many amenities that are attractive to urban dwellers. … It is a sustainable, intact neighborhood which has been built on certain characteristics and amenities, not the least of which is a healthy diverse residential population and housing stock. It has a high degree of walkability, a factor important to home buyers and dwellers in the emerging, often discussed ‘return to city living’.
A good deal of the Elmwood Village’s character is derived from the intermingling of small scale commercial uses and a variety of residential building styles affording a wide range of choice for its residents. The harmonious scale, older homes, and connectedness of buildings and uses throughout the area is a significant and attractive attribute. The district appears to have achieved a balance between residential and non- residential use both in terms of density, concentration and scale. This balance appears to have accrued from the residential character of the neighborhood, the scale of its non-residential structures in relation to nearby residential properties, and zoning code limitations on the intensity and scale of commercial use…”
THIRTEENTH, despite efforts in the DEIS to cherry-pick “smart growth” terminology and to ignore goals and principles that weigh against Chason Affinity’s plans, a close look at the City of Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan – known as “Queen City in the 21st Century” – reveals significant inconsistencies between the proposed “1111 Elmwood” project and Buffalo’s comprehensive plan. Here are several examples:
(a) The DEIS disregards a truism recognized by the Comprehensive Plan: “Conditions in Buffalo neighborhoods vary widely”:
“… Some are in good shape, attractive as living environments, and competitive as housing markets. Some are in desperate condition, with many dilapidated structures, high vacancy rates, low home-ownership rates, and a proliferation of vacant lots. The rest are somewhere in between…” [Comp Plan, p. 85]
The use of “demolition, rehabilitation and new construction to manage housing stock” is the approach the Comprehensive Plan envisions for neighborhoods in desperate condition. It is not what is proposed for the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues. While portions of Elmwood Ave. – for example, south of Summer Street – may require revitalization, the planning process utilized by the City of Buffalo in preparing the Comprehensive Plan concluded that the entire east side of Elmwood Ave., extending from the Scajaquada (Route 98) south to W. Utica, only requires actions necessary to “reinforce” the existing conditions, not to “revitalize” or “rebuild” the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, Elmwood Avenue is characterized as a “flourishing mixed-use commercial corridor with small specialty shops and boutiques, unique restaurants, bars and coffee houses,” and “one of the key communities for marketing the City of Buffalo to the region.” [Attached hereto as Exhibit E is a two-page excerpt from the Draft Comprehensive Plan regarding the “Elmwood Planning Community.”] [Click here: elmwood-draft-comprehensive-plan.]
(b) As the quote found at p. 23 of the DEIS indicates, the concept of “infill development” is meant as an approach for “reclaiming marginal and abandoned areas.” Demolishing 12 century-old buildings that reflect the history of a neighborhood, and replacing them with a huge structure different in character and scale from its surroundings, is neither “infill development,” nor smart growth.
(c) Chason Affinity’s proposed project violates two guiding principle “specific to the design of good neighborhoods” expressed in the Comprehensive Plan: “Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings.” And, “Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.” [Comp Plan, p. 97, 98] The project sponsor’s preferred alternative does neither.
(d) Chason Affinity’s plan to demolish a dozen structures – despite their contributions to the newly recognized Elmwood Village Historic District (East) – violates another principle “specific to the design of good neighborhoods” identified in the Comprehensive Plan: “Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts, and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of urban society.” [Comp Plan, p. 98] According to the Comprehensive Plan, preservation of the city’s historic resources – including historic districts – is important for a variety of reasons: it helps sustain the “web of urbanism”; it supports the community’s economic development goals by attracting tourists; and, it contributes to the quality of life that draws people and capital. [Id.]
(e) The Comprehensive Plan specifically calls for “a moratorium on demolitions other than those necessary for the preservation of public health.” [Comp Plan, p. 100]
(f) The density Chason Affinity proposes for its project – 45 to 50 units on a 1.1 acre site – far exceeds the densities envisioned in Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan. [Comp Plan, p. 106] For example:
* A “mixed-use neighborhood commercial” district would allow mixed residential use with 8 to 16 units per acre, with accessory ground floor non-residential development.
* A “mixed use downtown district (outside of the Central Business District) would allow mixed residential use with 16 to 24 units per acre, with non-residential development.
* Only “mixed use downtown Central Business District” would allow residential use with 24 units or more per acre.
FOURTEENTH, the traffic analysis contained in the DEIS fails to provide an accurate assessment of the real-life impact on the adjacent community of the increase in traffic that would accompany the Chason Affinity project:
(a) By focusing on AM and PM “Peak Hour” trip generation, and omitting an estimate of the total number of trips the project will be generating on a daily basis, the DEIS understates the impact on nearby residents, pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. My review of the ITE Trip Generation data reveals that, on average, the AM Peak Hour trips from a residential condominium/townhouse development represents only 7 or 8% of the total number of vehicle trips generated by the development throughout a typical weekday. Likewise, the PM Peak Hour figure reflects less than 10% of the total trips generated daily by the average condo/townhouse project. If the trip estimates provided in the DEIS traffic analysis are accurate, the proposed 45 to 50 units at “1111 Elmwood” would generate approximately 400 vehicle trips per day pulling into or out of traffic on already-busy Elmwood or Forest avenue. Similarly, the AM and PM Peak Hour figures for a Specialty Retail Center equal somewhere between 6 and 8% of the traffic generated throughout the entire day. Again, if the trip estimates provided in the DEIS traffic analysis are accurate, the three 2,500-square-foot commercial shops at 1111 Elmwood would add approximately 300 vehicle trips per day to existing traffic.
(b) Despite the fact that the project sponsor’s FEAF states that “During Operations” the proposed development “hours of operation” would be from 7 AM to 7 PM throughout the entire week, Chason Affinity’s traffic consultant has chosen not to include AM Peak Hour trips in its projection of estimated trips for the three specialty retail stores. My review of the ITE Trip Generation data shows that, on average, specialty retail centers generate a larger amount of traffic during the AM Peak Hour than during the PM Peak Hour.
(c) Although the project sponsor’s traffic analysis includes its estimate of the impact of the proposed project on the adjoining commercial property, Pano’s Restaurant, it does not provide an estimate on how the Forest Avenue entrance/exit – which will be accessed by 100% of commercial traffic using the on-site parking facility, and 50% of the residential traffic – will impact vehicles entering or existing either the residential driveway at 2 Penhurst, or the gas station/convenience store driveway at 1131 Elmwood. It is inconceivable that the additional traffic entering and exiting the proposed project will not impact safety and convenience for drivers using existing driveways in such close proximity.
FIFTEENTH, although it claims that the proposed project is “intended to meet the spirit and intent” of the proposed Green Code, the DEIS has conveniently failed to mention an important way in which the proposed project does not comply with the proposed Green Code: In addition to height limitation of three stories, the proposed Green Code, to maintain the character of the Elmwood Village, states the following: “No more than two lots in the Elmwood Village, existing at the time of the adoption of this Ordinance, may be combined for the purposes of new construction in an N-2C or N-2E zone.”
FOR THE ABOVE REASONS, my client, Sandra Girage, respectfully asks this board to take the following steps:
A. Exercise the authority given to you by the SEQRA regulations [6 NYCRR 617.9(a)(7)] and require the project sponsor to submit a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement [SEIS] that addresses, at a minimum, the following issues not addressed or inadequately addressed in the DEIS:
(i) The impact of the proposed 5-story, 166,000-square-foot project on the character of the single-family residences on the east side of Elmwood Avenue north of Forest Avenue.
(ii) A detailed description of the “traffic and vehicle access plan will be prepared and used for worker and delivery access to the Site,” addressing how such plans would address the adverse impact of an 18-month construction schedule on nearby residences, the Elmwood/Forest intersection, the existing sparsity of on-street parking, and nearby businesses given “large volumes of construction related vehicles [that] are expected Monday through Friday” during the 18-month construction period.
(iii) Objective data and analysis to show whether or not the existing infrastructure, and, in particular, the existing sanitary sewer system contains adequate capacity to handle the proposed project.
(iv) An “Alternatives Analysis” that complies with the requirements of the SEQRA regulation [6 NYCRR 617.9(b)(5)(v)] by providing a description and evaluation of each alternative “at a level of detail sufficient to permit a comparative assessment of the alternatives discussed.” The alternatives described and evaluated, in addition to the “no action” alternative, should include a significantly shorter building with a substantially smaller footprint, and an alternative for which no rezoning or variances are needed.
(v) An expanded traffic analysis that includes trip generation figures on a daily basis (weekday, Saturday and Sunday), in addition to AM and PM peak hours; trip generation during AM peak hours for the three 2,500-square-foot retail stores; and, the impact of the Forest Avenue entrance/exit on the residence at 2 Penhurst and gas station/convenience store at 1131 Elmwood Ave.
B. Utilize the 45-day period provided by the SEQRA regulations between the close of the public hearing and the preparation of the Final EIS [6 NYCRR 617.9(a)(5)] to provide meaningful responses to all substantive comments received regarding the DEIS.
C. If, following issuance of the Final EIS and SEQRA written findings statement, this board determines that it will approve Chason Affinity’s design and site plan application, fully comply with a lead agency’s obligation under SEQRA to “incorporate as conditions” to any decision approving the project “mitigative measures” that will avoid or minimize adverse impacts “to the maximum extent practicable.” [6 NYCRR 617.9(b)(7)] More specifically, exercise your authority under SEQRA [6 NYCRR 617.3(b)] to limit the height, square-footage, and footprint of the proposed project so as to avoid or minimize the project’s adverse impacts on the existing neighborhood and community character, and the quality of life of the nearby residents.
Arthur J. Giacalone