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Apartment Plan Under Fire from Neighbors

Trail Heights Approved by Planning Board

By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Ellicottville’s Planning Board approved the final plat plan for the Trail Heights development at its monthly meeting on Monday, May 23 pending a few minor revisions to the Homeowners Association (HOA) document.

The property, owned by developer Phil Vogt, will feature 14 lots for single-family homes on 70-acres across Poverty Hill Rd. from the planned 42 Degrees North (42DN) resort community. The private road, community trail, easements and drainage ponds will be maintained through the HOA.

Vogt and the Planning Board are also beginning the discussion about another possible project – an apartment home community (Valley Flats) – on vacant land just outside of the Village on Maples Road next to the Elk Creek single-family home development.

With a preliminary “concept site plan” provided by Vogt, town Planner Gary Palumbo described the project to the board, which will feature eight two-story buildings with eight apartments in each on a circular road with landscaping and parking. Vogt also may consider constructing four, four-stall garages, in addition to 160 parking spaces.

A new road off Maples Road and across from North Wood Dr. would be constructed for access to the apartments.

Palumbo explained that the described project is permitted by Ellicottville zoning law with a special use permit, but the planning board was not in a position to take any action on the project since plans were only conceptual. Palumbo said that the project likely qualifies as a master-planned development and likely would need to be referred to the county for approval.

A large percentage of the residents of Elk Creek (which has seven homes), as well as some neighbors across Maples Road, attended the meeting. While there was no public hearing scheduled, the board invited their comments.

To a person, the residents in attendance were adamantly opposed to the apartment project.

The Elk Creek residents explained to the planning board that when they purchased their homes in the development,they were told by the developer (John Northrup) and their real estate agents that they were buying into phase one of a two-phase project. Phase two would see the eventual addition of more single-family homes on the property in question. Ultimately there would be about 40 homes.

Residents displayed documentation to that effect, including a tax map that indicated eventual separate lots.

Palumbo said he was surprised to see the tax map because his search of county records found documents showing only the vacant lot – not separate lots. He speculated that perhaps the plans were never submitted to the county.

Palumbo also surmised that Northrup decided for whatever reason not to expand the community. Vogt is in the final stages of purchasing the property from Northrup.

Regardless of who owns the property, one Elk Creek resident said that he will be hiring an attorney to block the apartments. He also said a petition opposing the project is being circulated.

Another complicating factor noted by another resident is that there is common property owned by the Elk Creek HOA at the foot of the hills along the back of the vacant land. She wanted to know how that property would be protected for their exclusive use.

Neighbors living across Maples from the property argued that the traffic from 64 apartments onto Maples Road would cause too much traffic “on a blind corner.” Palumbo advised the board and Vogt that a traffic study would be necessary.

Vogt, when asked if he would like to respond to any of the residents’ concerns, said he would take all comments into consideration and understood their issues. He also noted that most people agree that Ellicottville desperately needs rental apartments for those who live and work there, and he said all of the first floor apartments would be fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Overall, the gathered residents agreed that Ellicottville needs apartments. But one resident said in no uncertain terms that “We don’t want them in our community; it wasn’t part of the purchase plan.” Another added: “We think you should look for a different place for these buildings.”

Moving on to the next item on the agenda, the planning board considered the application by Justin Dineen to create a 13-acre campground off Rt. 219 near the old Riley’s restaurant site that will offer accommodations in yurts. The campground will be called Ellicottville Yurts and Recreation.

The Planning Board advised Dineen to prepare a more precise drawing of the site plan – especially the driveway, which comes directly off the state highway. They want to be certain that the driveway is not shown to be sharing the state’s right-of-way.

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