The City of Lockport Planning Board voted Monday to recommend a waiver for Cazenovia Recovery Systems on the city's six-month moratorium on redeveloping 360 Davison Road.
The vote, approved unanimously, puts the planning board's stamp of approval on a proposed waiver that would allow Cazenovia to proceed with its rezoning application for 360 Davison Road, formerly Niagara County property, before the moratorium expires in March. Cazenovia and the property's owner, LHC Holdings, are asking to rezone the property for multi-family homes to accommodate Cazenovia's plans for a 44-bed residential treatment facility for women with substance abuse disorders and 65 low-income apartments units.
The proposed waiver is expected to go before the Common Council at its Nov. 20 meeting.
The council approved the moratorium on development at 360 Davison Road on Sept. 18, following months of vocal opposition from nearby residents. However, the council stated in its resolution that the moratorium was intended to ensure the property's current zoning fits with a 1998 comprehensive plan and the city's "unique topographical and geological conditions."
Charles Grieco, an attorney representing Cazenovia, said there is "nothing unique or unusual" about the property's physical conditions that would prevent its development. He suggested the moratorium was only intended to delay the proposal.
“There’s nothing that needs to be studied here. ... We think the real reason for this moratorium is just furthering the delays and the opposition to this specific project,” Grieco said.
Grieco added that the moratorium is inappropriate because Cazenovia's requested use is included in the city's zoning code.
"We’re not proposing a giant solar farm where you don’t have solar regulations. That’s the purpose for a moratorium — not to determine whether or not existing zoning classifications are appropriate for an existing building," Grieco said.
Attorney Daniel Spitzer disagreed, saying the law clearly allows municipalities to set moratoriums while determining whether to change dated zoning regulations.
“Your code is extraordinarily out of date on those items," Spitzer said.
Spitzer also said the moratorium does not prevent the city from reviewing building and rezoning applications, and claimed Cazenovia's proposal was only delayed because the provider never told city officials whether it would need a special use variance.
Cazenovia submitted a petition June 28 to rezone the portion of the property that sits within the city. The provider then submitted a petition in August to rezone the portion that sits within the town of Lockport.
“There is nothing holding things up in any way, other than the applicant," Spitzer said.
Spitzer also dismissed Grieco's claims the moratorium imposed a hardship on Cazenovia and LHC Holdings.
"I’m not sure that buying a piece of property that’s zoned for a park and then insisting that it needs to be rezoned creates a hardship,” Spitzer said.
Grieco said Cazenovia eventually determined it did not need a variance, but that should not have delayed the rezoning petition.
“Even if we had, there’s no reason that this board ... or the city council could not have proceeded with the rezoning application,” Grieco said.