Planning board digs into Niagara Ecovillage's plans

Tim Arlington, engineer, presents the Niagara Ecovillage, a sustainable housing project on Park Lane Circle proposed by owner Alma Lafferty (not shown here) and her attorney Dan Seaman, seated at right, to the City of Lockport Planning Board. The development would include a cafe and childcare area for members of the private community. (Photograph by Benjamin Joe)

Alma Lafferty was confident after the planning board reviewed her Niagara Ecovillage project at its Monday meeting.

The project is a based on sustainable living and will transform 19 acres on Park Lane Circle into a place of “passive house designed” dwellings and open green space. Amenities for members will include a member-only cafe as well as child care.

“I’m looking forward to moving forward on this project,” Lafferty said after the meeting. “I think it’s an important regional economic development project and I want to see people get to work and provide something to the community.”

Tim Arlington from Apex Consulting presented the first phase of the project which involves two four-story apartment buildings, a parking lot, utility connections and a private road.

“This entire six acre-parcel is considered phase one,” Arlington said. “What we’ve decided to do is present a preliminary plan to get initial review from the board. We’ve also put together a completed SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) for the entire development, phase one and two.”

Evan Walters, special counsel to the planning board, questioned Arlington to specific points seen on the Niagara Ecovillage application.

“The goal for tonight is to try to understand both the immediate goals and the big picture and how these two sides relate to each other — so the board can understand and staff can evaluate the applications to tell you exactly what you need to do to do the things you want to do,” Walters said. “That’s why we’re not really taking public questions now.”

Walters assured the crowd of a dozen people that public comment would be received further along in the process of working with this project.

Questions included stormwater infrastructure for the project, as they are different in each phase, the first phase being only 1-acre. Other issues included planning and legalities.

Walters said PUD regulations in the city are unusual, as it goes to the planning board, which is very different from county PUDs.

“It’s not an overly designed component,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily allow the board to waiver uses for the underlying district. I’m throwing it out there. We’re taking a closer look at it, we ask applicant’s attorney take a closer look at it and we can talk further. That something that jumped out during our initial review.”

Walters went through several other questions involving the physical make-up of the development, including height of townhouses, 35-feet, and other aspects including whether the buildings be rented or owned, the answer to which, Seaman said, was that it would likely be a condominium or home owners association model.

As to timeline, Alma said she’d like begin as soon as spring.

“We’d love to break ground in April,” she said. “The faster we get the go-ahead, the faster we’re going to move.”

No action was taken on the project and Walters said he would get in touch with attorneys of the development.

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