Weekly Feature

2017-09-13 / Front Page

South Long Park to stay intact in newest land swap proposal

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter

South Long Park in Williamsville will be untouched in the latest land swap proposal between the village and Natale Development.

In place of the previous proposal where the village planned to trade 1.8 acres of parkland with Natale Development, the village now plans to give a portion of its Department of Public Works side yard in exchange for ownership of the Lehigh Valley Section House, its adjacent parking lot and a roughly 1-acre triangular parcel situated behind the tennis courts in the southeast corner of South Long Park.

This new deal would also connect the park and the Lehigh Memory Trail.

“This solves a question that we’ve had, which is how do we connect these two parks,” Mayor Brian Kulpa said at Monday’s Village Board meeting. “We don’t know exactly what [Natale Development] is going to show us, but they had talked to the village about coming in at less than the proposed 15,000-square -foot building footprints. So with less buildings overall, the apartment number has dropped.”

In the previous proposal, Natale would have received parkland at the corner of South Long Street and Village Square Lane, where the existing baseball diamond is located. The developer planned to build an apartment complex with 80 units where the baseball diamond is, with 42 townhouses on California Drive.

In return, the village would have received a portion of the former Darling Construction site on California Drive, which was to become new parkland.

Another option for Natale, if the initial land swap did not go through, was to build 88 to 100 apartments and 30 townhomes on its purchased parcels on California Drive.

Kulpa said that with this latest proposal, he does not know how many townhomes, apartment units or buildings there will be, except that it will be significantly less and will be built on the developer’s purchased property on California Drive.

Trustee Al Yates believes this proposal is a good compromise.

“Living in the neighborhood and what we’ve all been through and all of the ideas that the village came up with, I think this plan meets somewhere in the middle of what I think we all want,” said Trustee Al Yates. “It connects the two parks, it picks up a historic building and it gives us a place to expand the depot. I think it could be a great space.”

After obtaining the Section House, Kulpa said the village would license the property to the Western New York Railway Historical Society, which would maintain and update it.

“We’re certainly interested in saving the building for one thing,” said Tom Stackhouse, a member of the WNY Railway Historical Society and depot station master at the Williamsville Lehigh Valley Depot. “The second thing is that we would like to have a facility available for community meetings, make it a museum and have some sort of partnership with the Williamsville Historical Society. This will give the village a definite destination.”

To finalize the plan, the Village Board needs to approve the land swap, and the project will need site plan approval by the Planning Board.

For more information, visit walkablewilliamsville.com.

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