Weekly Feature

2018-01-11 / Front Page

Board pushes off decision on auto repair shop at Genesee and Union


After a tense work session regarding a rezoning request by an auto repair facility at the corner of Genesee Street and Union Road, the Cheektowaga Town Board tabled the resolution about the project’s environmental review recommendation, as well as the rezoning resolution itself.

The actions effectively postpone the final decision until at least Jan. 23.

Dent Pro Buffalo wanted its lot at 3535 Genesee St. to be rezoned from a general commercial district to a motor service district, which would allow the business to accommodate collision work.

Both resolutions about the shop that were tabled at Tuesday’s meeting mentioned that rezoning the property to a motor service district would “create a material conflict with the Town’s future plans and goals for the Union Road/Genesee Street area.”

Currently, Dent Pro operates as a “lawful non-conforming” shop, meaning it does not meet the long-term zoning visions for the area, but since it had been in business prior to that update to the comprehensive plan, it was permitted to continue.

However, actually rezoning the property, instead of essentially grandfathering in individual repair shops, could prevent the town from achieving its stated vision for the Genesee/Union area, according to Town Engineer Patrick Bowen.

“If we rezoned it to motor service, that property would have that zoning for as long the owner chooses to have it, unless they decide to put a different use in there and choose to rezone it again in the future,” said Bowen, who also chairs the Cheektowaga Environmental Advisory Committee.

“[Dent Pro has] a five-year lease,” he said. “They could move out in five years, and then you could have a Carubba Collision or somebody come in with a small satellite site with a full-blown collision shop, and lawfully, they’d be able to do that because it’s a permitted use under the motor service zoning classification.”

The EAC recommended the board issue a positive New York State Environmental Quality Review Act declaration because the project could have a negative impact on “community character” and “negative environmental impacts.”

Additionally, according to the resolution that would have denied the rezoning proposal, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has investigated Dent Pro after complaints of “unregulated air emissions and collision/ painting,” activities the shop should not be performing, currently.

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski was skeptical of issuing the positive SEQRA declaration, however, saying the move was highly irregular.

“I agree, we should not rezone that, but I’m trying to figure out why we have to issue a positive SEQRA,” she said after the meeting. “I looked through all our minutes and only found one positive [SEQRA declaration] when they put the Aloft Hotel in, and that was when [former councilman] Tom Johnson was here over 10 years ago.”

Additionally, she said the positive declaration could open Cheektowaga up to legal action.

“We’ve been told all along that it’s very hard to issue a positive SEQRA, and it seems like we’re picking and choosing when we’re going to help someone out,” she said, mentioning the legal and parliamentary rigmarole that surrounded a 2016 Tim Hortons project on Dick Road, during which the developers threatened to sue the town over the initial denial of a special use permit and two variances.

However, Councilman James Rogowski, who sponsored the two resolutions, said the comparison is apples to oranges.

“It was legal from day one [for Tim Hortons] to go there because of the fact it was a restaurant taking over a restaurant,” he said, referring to Captain’s Cove Restaurant, which occupied the lot beforehand.

Rogowski raised concerns about the repair shop’s proximity to a restaurant and Our Lady Help of Christians church, a National Historic Landmark located across the street, and said his support for the denial and the positive SEQRA declaration is based on recommendations.

“I’m looking at the EAC. I sit on that board, and when my engineer, town attorney, my assistant engineer, my regional planner, our junior planner, our Police Department’s there, if all of them tell me unanimously that we should pass the positive [declaration] to set a precedent that affects the immediate area, and then I tell this board that … it’s not me deciding that, it’s the EAC board. It’s the professionals telling me that.”

Benczkowski and Councilwoman Linda Hammer said the town must determine the best course of action, adding that they wanted to check into the possibility of a short-term special-use permit to see how the new work scope at the shop was working. The pair also wanted to look into why the project has not gone before the Zoning Board.

The supervisor expected the two resolutions would be back on the board docket in two weeks at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Town Hall, 3301 Broadway. A 5 p.m. work session will precede the regular meeting.

email: bjackson@beenews.com

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