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September 5, 2017 - 2:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in planning, genesee county, news.

Press release:

All members of the public are invited to join for the 17th annual Genesee County Comprehensive Plan Steering Committees presentation to the Legislature. The presentation will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11, at the Old Court House, 7 Main St., Batavia.

The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee meets six times throughout the year, taking in feedback from more than 100 individuals from various levels of government, nonprofit agencies, business and industry, and interested citizens regarding the topics: Agriculture and Food Production; Community Wellness; Criminal Justice and Emergency Management; Economic and Workforce Development; Government Administration and Education; Housing Opportunity; Land Use, Environment, and Place-Making; Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture; Technology and Utilities; and Transportation and Mobility.

The information gathered through this process is then reported to the legislative body to guide them in ongoing decision making and as they develop the next year’s County Budget.

Advance information may be obtained by contacting Derik Kane at the Genesee County Planning Department

County Building 2
3837 W. Main Street Road
Batavia, NY 14020
(585) 815-7901

August 15, 2017 - 1:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in comprehensive plan, batavia, planning, news.

Nearly two years in the making, a draft of a new comprehensive plan for Batavia has been presented to the City Council and soon it will be up to council members to decide what kind of future they want for the city.

One that maintains the status quo or one that aims to improve the quality of life for residents and attract new businesses.

"I think you’ll find that, yes, some communities are losing population," City Manager Jason Molino said after the draft plan was presented to the council. "They're not growing at great rates, but I think you’ll see that the communities that are well planned, and have good comprehensive plans that are practical, you’re going to see those communities are growing. They’re growing exponentially. They’re growing a lot faster than those who don’t (have comprehensive plans). I would argue that good planning leads to smart choices and that leads to positive outcomes.

"If we want to be mediocre forever then maybe we don’t do the comprehensive plan," Molino added. "If we want to achieve more, we take a community-based approach to it and you make smart choices in the future to trigger growth in the future."

Consultant Rob Holzman made the initial presentation of the plan. He reviewed the history of the process, which began in October 2015 and included the formation of a steering committee, interviews, focus groups, surveys and two community open houses where community members were invited in to share their vision for the future of the City of Batavia.

"This plan sets up a strong foundation for moving forward and understand what some of the basic investments are that are necessary to attract a younger population as well as a senior population," Holzman said.

Among the findings of the research that underlies the plan is that Batavia is seeing a decline in home ownership and a startling rise in rental occupancy.

"These are two characteristics that are worth noting because they’re really a driving impetus behind why you want this comprehensive planning process," Holzman said. "It's to figure out what’s going on and how some of these trends might be reversed."

The city is also overstocked in industrially zoned property. Industrial is the second highest acreage in the city of 14 types of zoning in Batavia, at 682 acres but only 169 acres are actually being used for industrial activity.

The plan suggests, Holzman said, that the city can direct more industrial uses in the area of the Harvester Center and the Pearl Street industrial park, both with significant vacancies, and rezone an area such as the east end of East Main Street.

The 70 to 90 properties in that area, with the exception of a cement company, are all commercial and residential, Holzman noted.

"It is a key gateway coming into the city," Holzman said. "It sets a tone for what to expect and having industrially zoned properties there might not be the best use of that transportation corridor."

Among the other suggestions for the Batavia of the future is the development of a complete street policy, which would include bike paths, bike racks at public facilities, signs providing distance and direction for destinations (wayfinding signage), and bus shelters that are attractive and may contain public art.

"Bus shelters might sound like a basic thing, and it is a basic thing, but it’s a necessary component to add to the vitality of a place," Holzman said.

The plan also suggests developing a tree management plan, a plan for parks and recreation, a plan to celebrate the city's history and its public spaces.

The plan also calls for changing the city's zoning code from the more highly regulated current form to what's known as "form-based" code, which more loosely defines appropriate uses for sections of the city.

When it came time for the council and the public to weigh in, there were some objections.

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs (later joined by community member John Roach) suggested that any suggestion that the east end of East Main Street be rezoned be removed from the plan. He insisted that the council already voted 6-3 against changing the zoning, therefore, it shouldn't be brought up again.

Molino explained that at this stage, the comprehensive plan is a roadmap. Implementation of actual zoning changes would come up later. Further, he noted, the council's previous vote was just on two parcels in the 70- to 90-acre area under consideration.  

Roach suggested the proposal was just a backdoor way to bring in the tax-exempt, subsidized housing for disabled people proposed by DePaul earlier this year.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski objected to the idea of form-based code because, based on his research, he said, back before current zoning was created, something like form-based zoning was used and it only benefitted the well-heeled and politically connected.

Holzman tried to explain that form based means something entirely different today and that what the comprehensive plan proposes is really a mix of formed based structure and traditional zoning.

Councilman Adam Tabelski said he was concerned (a concern shared by other speakers) that the Tonawanda Creek is barely mentioned in the plan, even though it represents a potential resource for the city.

Molino said specific proposals for what might happen along the creek would fit into the city's strategic planning process, which he also spoke about and how it might change with a new comprehensive plan.

He provided the council with a document that he said would help officials and staff better prioritize projects, especially when new ideas come along.

"One thing when we began to develop this process, we realized that as new opportunities come along there has to be a very disciplined process to evaluate those," Molino said. "We have to decide whether it not happen, be put off, changed, or if more resources have to be put on the table to deal with them."

August 11, 2017 - 7:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in planning, Oakfield, news, land use.

Even though an Oakfield resident got thumbs down from the county planning board in her bid to open a small retail store in the former St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Oakfield, she still might be able to do it.

The church building at 15 S. Main St., next to the 7-Eleven in Oakfield, isn't zoned for commercial uses.

When the application first came forward, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari thought the owner, Denise Linsey, would qualify for a home-occupation exemption, but it turns out Linsey doesn't live on the property. The property does have a house on it, but it is a rental property.

Oltramari said to qualify as a home-occupation, the property resident must be the owner or an immediate family member of the owner.

Linsey, a Mary Kay distributor, was planning to use the church as an outlet for customers to view Mary Kay products.

But the county planning board, which voted on the matter Thursday evening, doesn't have final say in the decision. Its vote is a recommendation to the Oakfield Planning Board, which can still grant the variance with a majority-plus-one vote.

Oltramari suggested Linsey seek a rezone of the property. Linsey said the house and the church are too close together. Oltramari said that could be addressed with a variance on the setback.

June 8, 2017 - 4:43pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, Le Roy, planning.

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Le Roy is open to anything at this stage regarding waterfront and downtown revitalization, Mayor Greg Rogers said at a strategic planning meeting on Wednesday. 

Rogers opened the meeting, explaining that Le Roy received a grant for planning the revitalization of Main Street and the waterfront. He said they put together a planning committee for this.

“We’re just trying to make Le Roy better than what it is now and it’s pretty darn good now,” Rogers said. 

John Steinmetz, a member of the committee, said the biggest challenge is that there are many ideas, but that they still want more. He said they are in the very beginning planning stages.

“We’ve been at this about a month,” Steinmetz said. “We were awarded the grant well over a year ago, but it took about a year to get the contract from the state. Now it’s officially a go.”

Residents at the meeting expressed their concerns about always having a plan for Le Roy, but never following through. Steinmetz said he thinks there hasn’t been enough momentum for the previous plans to follow through.

“Le Roy has done a lot of planning,” Steinmetz said. “The problem is, it’s not in one place. This grant is a way to say, ‘Are these ideas still relevant? What are the new ideas the community has?' and 'Let’s put them all in one document.’ ”

Steinmetz encouraged residents to think big and small when generating ideas.

“The most successful communities make sure the buildings designed can be reused,” Steinmetz said.

During the meeting, attendees rated pictures from other local communities, in order to give the committee an idea of what the public wants to see, regarding landscaping, residential development and mixed-use development.

Attendees were then put into three groups to brainstorm ideas they had for Le Roy, regarding specific parts of town.

Sandy Brady, a Le Roy resident, said there should be a bike path.

“We missed out when we did some work on Main Street,” Brady said. “We didn’t leave a bike path. Wherever you go these days, there’s a bike path.”

Brady said that bikes are everywhere nowadays and Le Roy does not have enough bike paths.

“It’s a different time now,” Brady said. “It’s many years later and we feel differently about bikes."

Committee Member Molly Gaudioso said this meeting was essential for them to hear what is important to the community.

“We want to know what ideas are out there,” Gaudioso said. “Of the ideas are already in plans, we want to know what ideas still make sense. It’s our job now to take this and make some sense out of it and put it into the plans.”

Steinmetz said the next meeting will be held toward year's end or the beginning of 2018.

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May 18, 2017 - 6:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, housing, planning.

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It takes good data to make good decisions and a lot of times when planners are considering housing projects, the developers with the proposals are the ones who have all the data.

A new housing needs assessment for Genesee County will help solve that problem, said Felipe Oltramari, the county's planning director. 

"(Developers) are not going to come into a market where they know there is no need," Oltramari said. "They did their own study, but it's a private study that is focused on their segment of the market."

As part of the needs assessment process, the county hosted an open house at the Senior Center on Bank Street last night, which gave the residents who attended an opportunity to provide feedback on what they see as local housing issues, whether it's too much stock in one place, or of one type, or not enough of something.

Oltramari said the comprehensive study will also use interviews with various stakeholders in the community, whether they be veterans' groups, groups that serve seniors, the disabled and business groups. Officials and consultants will also try to identify the housing needs of Millennials. The goal is to get a broad picture of what is needed, which will help guide planning decisions and maybe uncover undetected needs.

"When a study like this happens, you will be able to put that information out there for some developers who may not be looking at this area," Oltramari said

The study is expected to be completed by December.

Oftentimes developers look at census, sales data and current housing patterns to identify a need in a community -- that same data will be gathered for the county's assessment -- and then try to fit a project into that community. But in a small community such as Genesee County, there are potentially niche needs that private developers won't uncover on their own. The county's housing needs study could identify a potential need and make that information available to developers who might decide trying to fill that need could be profitable.

"We want to make sure we’re looking at all segments of the market," Oltramari said. "One thing we heard, especially when Muller Quaker came, there was no housing for executives and lot of them ended up living outside of the county. When STAMP comes, we want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen."

The county's own study will also be used to confirm, or not, what private developers say is a local need. For example, when DePaul Properties was still pursuing a $25 million project on East Main Street in the City, CEO Mark Fuller said DePaul had identified needs in the city for more housing for disabled people, seniors with diminished mobility and veterans. Asked where those people are now, Fuller said they are most likely living with parents or in substandard housing.  

That could be an example of a market need that isn't readily apparent to most observers, but solid data could help identify.

(The project was stymied by a City Council decision not to change the zoning of the property from industrial to commercial.)

"They (developers, such as DePaul) know that and they might do their own research and come to that conclusion, but we haven’t seen that research," Oltramari said. "I’m sure there is probably that need, because they have a business model and they have to make sure the project is going to work, so there is some evidence, you have to trust that. But it’s nice to really have the tool to show 'yes, there is that need and this is something we should support as a community.' "

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April 25, 2017 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in DePaul, Batavia Square Apartments, planning, zoning, news.

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A plan to build apartment complexes on East Main Street drew a full house to Monday's City Council meeting, but the project, aimed at people in vulnerable populations, got mixed reviews from the 23 speakers.

The City Council was being asked to move forward a resolution to rezone the properties at 661, 665 and 679 E. Main St. Most of the location is a former State Police barracks.

The area is currently part of an industrial zone. The council is being asked to consider rezoning it to Commercial, or C2.

This would allow the project from DePaul, known as Batavia Square Apartments, to move forward, but it would not mean the project is approved.

City Attorney George Van Nest reminded council members they were being asked to consider a rezoning proposal, not the actual project that inspires the consideration.

“You really need to center on the question, does this zoning change make sense, notwithstanding some of the considerations that may have been out there or questions about other uses or other studies that are not specifically germane to the question of zoning itself," Van Nest said. "The petition is for rezoning that is at the behest of the City Council legislatively.”

There was a public hearing on the rezoning issue, but comments during to hearing had to be just about the rezoning issue. Since many of the 23 speakers at the meeting wanted to talk about more than just zoning, they took to the podium during the public comments section of the council meeting.

About half of the speakers favored the project, and of those, about half worked, have worked for DePaul or were families that have benefitted from DePaul's services.

Opposition came from people concerned about adding more rental apartment units to the city and how that would impact the current population and private-property landlords. They also raised the issue the amount of taxes DePaul would be paying while the new apartments would lead to the use of city services, such as police and fire.

The council voted by a narrow 5-4 margin to move the resolution for the zoning change to its next business meeting.

"If it's to be believed that 50 percent of the residences in the City of Batavia are rentals, then the question is, why do we need more rentals?" Chuck Ruffino said.

He referenced a study being done on the county's housing stock, designed to help planners understand local housing needs. Ruffino said the council shouldn't move forward without more information.

"We really don’t have good information on which to make this decision, because once you make that decision, the agenda is set," he said. "You can’t take it away. It’s done. Thirty years, tax exempt."

Russ Romano raised concerns about the number of rentals already in the community, the need for the housing study to be completed, and the seeming shortage of housing for people in the workforce. He also questioned the wisdom of changing the zoning.

"I question the fact that you can make this change in zoning when it goes against the current zoning law of being zoned industrial," Romano said. "I think it's dangerous and in your comprehensive plan it has not changed."

John Gerace said he doesn't believe anybody in the community is against housing for people on disability or against veterans or seniors, but he did question the need for it now, especially housing that is tax-break subsidized.

He calculated that at $25 million for construction, each of the 80 units would be worth more than $300,000.

"I would like to live in a $325,000 apartment," Gerace said.

Since subsidized rents are available to many potential tenants, Gerace said he's concerned that current landlords will lose out.

"It will be a drain on the local economy, on local landlords who bought property and have been paying property taxes right along and have vacancies right now," Gerace said.

George Galliford said it would be unfair to local landlords to allow this project to move forward.

“It seems to me that it’s very unfair competition for landlords who have been conscientious, paid their taxes, done what they needed to do and are never ever given any kind of favor," Galliford said. "Thirty years is a long time. Those payments in lieu of taxes are to me are a joke. They should be much, much more than what they are. It’s unfair competition."

John Roach said he thought it was premature for the City to move forward with project approval. 

He said the current vacancy rate in the city is 7 percent and that 5 percent is considered ideal. He said the county is projected to lose 9 percent of its population in coming years.

Adding more apartment units will just put more financial pressure on existing landlords, he suggested, and if those properties move off the tax roles, "it will just put more pressure on the rest of us."

The DePaul project also had its defenders.

Stacy Falkowski (top photo), a Batavia resident, said life is getting harder for her elderly parents, especially now that her father has Parkinson's disease. She described the difficulties she and her mother have caring for her father in her parent's current commercial apartment.

She said her father has fallen more than once in the bathroom and they're lucky he hasn't been seriously hurt; no broken bones, but there has been blood to clean up.

“It’s pretty tough to deal with every single day of the month,” she said.

The planned DePaul housing complex, with its amenities for the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable adults, along with greater social opportunities, would be great for her parents.

Most of the people who would move there, she said, are already local residents and to counter the argument against the lower taxes paid by DePaul, she said our local older residents had earned this sort of amenity.

"These people are paying taxes, and they’ve lived in the City ofBataviaa for many years and paid a lot of taxes, school taxes, property taxes," Falkowski said.

Colleen Gillam, from Waterport, said her 25-year-old son currently lives in a DePaul apartment in Batavia and for the first time in his life, he's living on his own and doing very well. She said for people like her son, the kind of housing DePaul provides is hard to come by.

"I think with this coming into your community it will only benefit you and the families who live here and in the surrounding areas," she said.

Chris Syracuse, a longtime employee of DePaul said when DePaul comes into a community, they do so humbly and with an eye toward building a beautiful facility that the community will be proud to see.

"Never in 27 years have I ever had somebody say to me, ‘I regret DePaul coming into my community,' " Syracuse said.

After the council discussion and before the vote, City Manager Jason Molino addressed some of the issues raised during the meeting.

He said the area had been zoned industrial for 50 years. Before that, it was considered a business district, which is similar to today's commercial zone. Over the past half century, there has been no industrial activity in the area. The train tracks that would have supported industrial activity, and supported the Trojan tractor factory in the area, were removed in the 1960s or 1970s. Over the past 50 years it's been mixed commercial and residential with some light manufacturing.  

During that period, industrial growth in the city has taken place around Graham, Treadeasy, and O-AT-KA, and future industrial growth is more likely to take place in the greenfield developments outside of the city. The East Main Street area of the city isn't likely to attract any industrial development.

"It hasn’t happened in the past 50 years, and it’s not likely to occur in that specific area," he said.

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Mark Fuller, project developer.

April 14, 2017 - 1:22pm

Mercy EMS is finding its current ambulance staging area at St. Jerome's on Bank Street a little cramped and not conducive to keeping ambulances ready to roll in all kinds of weather, so it's planning a new 11,500 square foot facility off Route 98, just north of the Thruway, in the Town of Batavia.

The new facility will cost about $2 million and the site plan was reviewed and recommended for approval last night by the County Planning Board.

"There’s no space," said Mercy EMS General Manager Bill Schutt of the current location. "We’re in essentially four old hospital rooms there. There’s very limited parking space, obviously, if you’ve been there. In winter times, it’s especially difficult. Ambulances have fluids in them, medications that need to be kept warm, so you’re trying to run heaters inside them to warm them while parked outside. We don’t have any space there to hold meetings, do training, any additional private spaces, very limited crew space."

The new facility will have eight interior parking bays and additional spaces with electrical hook-ups for ambulances to park outside in emergency overflow situations.

The location, 2.2 acres being split out from an 8.6 parcel, is part of the Gateway II project on Call Parkway, just off of Oak Orchard Road.

Schutt said the new location will have no effect on response times.

There will also be expanded crew space, a meeting and training room.

The new location will also include a purchasing department that will house regional purchasing for Mercy Flight.

Also on Thursday's agenda:

  • The board recommended approval of two new commercial buildings on a parcel just north of Home Depot, abutting the Thruway, at 4181 Veterans Memorial Drive. The buildings will be a 12,600 square foot facility that will house medical offices and a 7,500 square foot building that will contain three spaces. Two will be restaurant spaces. The $1.2 million project is being undertaken by Holland Trotta out of Rochester.  A spokesman for the developer told planners that the large space was originally intended for a well-known local restaurant, but those plans changed. The signage on the architectural drawings in the planning board packet for the smaller building show an urgent care business and a Mexican chain restaurant, Qdoba Mexican Eats.
  • The board recommended approval of a conditional use permit for 17.4-acre, 2-megawatt solar farm at 2901 Pearl Street Road, Batavia. 
  • The board recommended approval of a nine-month moratorium on the planning and construction of solar farms in Stafford, giving officials time to review policies and zoning plans for such facilities.
  • The board recommended approval of a site plan review for a new 29,456 square foot paddock at Batavia Downs to be constructed on the east side of the race track. The previous paddock was removed to make room for construction of the new hotel. Currently, stables, are being used for paddock space. Paddocks are where horses and drivers are prepared for each race and return to after the race for washing and testing (winning horses are tested for banned substances, as required by the gaming commission). 
March 27, 2017 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, planning, news.

Pavilion is hosting a community workshop to discuss its upcoming comprehensive plan this Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.

The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will lead a community discussion and present a look at the community's future during the workshop.

Light refreshments will be served.

March 17, 2017 - 9:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, news, planning.

Press release:

The Comprehensive Plan Update will help guide future zoning and development decisions in Byron. What would you like to see for the future of Byron? Please complete a survey and return to the Byron Town Clerk (P.O. Box 9, 7028 Byron Holley Road, Byron, NY 14422) by March 31.

Survey forms are available at the Byron Town Hall, Byron Hotel & Trailhouse, Fullerino’s Pizzeria, Gillett’s Hardware or Gillam-Grant Center. The survey is also available online. You can link to the survey on the Town of Byron website:  http://www.byronny.com/  or go directly to the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ByronCommunitySurvey

Please only complete one survey (online or on paper). Thank you for your participation.

February 28, 2017 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, planning, news, comprehensive plan.

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The City is hosting a comprehensive plan open house from now until 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

The open house consists of multiple stations that ask residents and business owners for their thoughts and ideas about the future of Batavia.

The feedback will be used in drafting the city's new comprehensive plan.

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January 20, 2017 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, land use, planning, news, Alabama, batavia, byron, elba, Oakfield, and Pembroke..

Press release:

A state-mandated 30-day public review period has begun for Agricultural Districts No. 2 in the towns of Alabama, Batavia, Byron, Elba, Oakfield and Pembroke.

The Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board announced that Agricultural District No. 2 will embark on its eight-year review with a 30-day public review period beginning on Jan. 26.

As with every eight-year review, landowners with lands in the district under review will be asked to complete a worksheet where they will be given the option to enroll or withdraw property from the district. Only entire parcels can be included or excluded.

Landowners will receive the worksheet, along with a letter, informational brochure, and map of the current district boundaries in the next couple of days. Each landowner will have until Friday, Feb. 24th of this year to mail the worksheets to the Department of Planning in the envelopes provided. This deadline also coincides with the deadline for the Annual Enrollment Period, which allows for inclusion of predominantly viable agricultural land to any of the County’s Agricultural Districts pending review by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. In addition, nearby landowners that are receiving Agricultural Tax Assessments and are not part of the Agricultural Districts Program will be mailed a letter and form inviting them to join the program.

During this 30-day period, a map of the District will be on file and open to the public in the office of the Genesee County Clerk and at the Genesee County Department of Planning.Any municipality whose territory encompasses the above Agricultural District, any State Agency or any landowner within or adjacent to the District, may propose a modification of the District during this period. The District and any proposed modification will be submitted to the Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board for review. Consequently, a public hearing on the District and any proposed modifications will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

At the conclusion of this review, the Genesee County Legislature will vote on any modifications to the District and send the proper materials to the State Department of Agriculture and Markets for recertification. The public is encouraged to attend all open meetings.

By enrolling land in the Agricultural Districts Program, participating farmers can receive relief from nuisance claims and certain forms of local regulation. Enrollment is free and voluntary. For a free informational brochure, please contact the Genesee County Department of Planning. Phone: (585) 815-7901; fax: (585) 345-3062; email: [email protected] Visit us on the Web at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/planning.

January 19, 2017 - 12:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in smart growth, planning, land use, Oakfield, Alabama.

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Up next for the county's tri-annual update to our Smart Growth Plan is a presentation Feb. 13 to the Public Service Committee of the Genesee County Legislature.

Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and planning staff have toured the county, providing interested residents at town-hall-style meetings information and maps outlining the proposed changes to the plan.

The final such meeting was Tuesday at the community center in Oakfield and covered the proposed plan for Oakfield and Alabama.

The goal of the plan is to protect farmland from suburban-like sprawl and guide population centers toward a denser, mixed-use, more pedestrian-friendly environment.

These are the types of communities younger generations of families and workers are looking for, Oltramari said. Younger families want to have more amenities and services within walking distance of their homes and have a stronger sense of neighborhood than offered by traditional suburban development where all lots are the same size, all homes have the same floor plan and residents come home from work, pull into their garage and never say "hi" to a neighbor.

The plan for Oakfield (pdf) includes allowing development along Pearl Street out to Batavia Oakfield Townline Road.

In response to a resident's question, Oltramari suggested this area is well positioned for the kind of denser, mixed-use, walkable neighborhood many people want these days.

A resident brought up a decades-old housing development in Le Roy that is more than a mile outside of the village and noted residents just drive to Tops, and "what's wrong with that?" and Oltramari said those are the kind of developments that contribute to the decline of villages such as Le Roy.

Islands of suburban-like development tend to encourage people to move out of older villages and don't bring in new residents, he said, and then the old Victorian homes in the village become multi-unit rentals.

"What happened along with that is their downtown died," Oltramari said. "A lot of people who used to walk into the shops, a lot of families whose kids used to walk to school and go downtown are not there anymore. They’re being bussed and they’re being driven and a lot of people who live in the village are transient people. There are consequences to doing that, but when you build little neighborhoods, you tend to attract people from the outside."

The Smart Growth Plan contemplates new homes being built that fit into a hamlet's or village's character (differing lot sizes, different architectural treatments), but helps keep homes clustered around the village, which will encourage rehab of the remaining older homes.

For Alabama (pdf), growth could mean a demand for more housing, but instead of converting farmland into housing tracts, the plan is designed to grow the existing hamlet into a village.

None of this -- like any planning document -- is written into stone, Oltramari noted after Tuesday's meeting. There are processes to override the plan, but those are difficult barriers to overcome. A town's board, the county planning board and the County Legislature would all have to approve a development not fitting in the current development boundaries, and if that happened there would be legal challenges.

The Smart Growth Plan development process dates back to 2001 and was part of the agreement to bring Monroe County Water into Genesee County. The county is required to update the plan every three years in order to continue to expand the public water supply flowing from Monroe County Water.

There are future funding mechanisms dependent on abiding by the plan, and the Sierra Club is on record, Oltramari said, of claiming it is prepared to file a lawsuit if the county doesn't develop and abide by the plan to protect farmland.

For more on the Smart Growth Plan, and to view maps for each community that outline development areas, click here. The Feb. 13 meeting, likely to start at 4:30 p.m. at the Old Courthouse, is open to the public.

May 18, 2016 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in town of batavia, batavia, planning, land use, business.

From the Town of Batavia Planning Board's meeting last night:

  • Jeff Price met with the board to discuss his plans for two or three off-road truck events at the Genesee County Fairgrounds this year. Called Flex Rock 4x4, Price organized two events last year and he said they went very well. The first event wasn't well publicized and the turnout was mostly local drivers and truck owners, but by the time the second event rolled around, word had gotten out and drivers came from as far away as North Carolina. He said neighboring residents attended the first event to see what it was about and he hasn't received any complaints. He said the fair board is happy with his events. He asked the planning board for a letter approving the events, which the board will provide.
  • Chris Moiser, owner of Area 51, presented his plans for the 2016 season and received board support. He is planning races June 4-5, July 2-3, July 30-31, Sept. 3-4 and Nov. 13, with an MX race Oct. 29-30 and the Dirty Girl Mud Run on July 16.
  • Dale Banfield presented plans for outdoor concerts at the Waggin Wheel restaurant on Park Road. He's planning on hosting a couple of concerts featuring country bands and '80s classic rock. The concerts will be in a fenced-in area with proceeds from food sales going to local volunteer fire departments. Ticket sales would cover the cost of the bands. He said he's already spoken with representatives fo Batavia Downs and COR Development about parking and traffic and he said both are willing to work with him. He said he plans to have the venue entrance behind the Waggin Wheel, along the property line with Batavia Towne Center. A special use permit is required and a public hearing was set for June 21, by which time the board expects Banfield to have more details worked out.
  • The board approved a site plan review for Alpina Foods, which is planning a 3,360-square-foot expansion. No representatives of Alpina attended the meeting.
April 25, 2016 - 12:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in robbins nest, Le Roy, planning, land use, news.

Thwarted once, local businessman and developer Pete McQuillen is kicking the tires of an idea to revive his Robbins Nest housing neighborhood on the south end of the Village of Le Roy.

McQuillen started pursuing the project in about 2010, thought he had the necessary approvals to move forward, then a lawsuit forced him to go back to the village board for approval of the necessary zoning change.

At a September 2012 meeting, McQuillen learned that two village board members -- Bob Taylor and Mike Tucci -- would not vote on the resolution because they felt they had a conflict of interest.

Taylor's nephew is Steve Barbeau and Tucci worked for Tompkins Insurance under the supervision of David Boyce. Barbeau, the Town of Le Roy supervisor, and Boyce, were leads in the lawsuit against McQuillen.

The two men are neighbors in a neighborhood known as Presidential Acres, which abuts McQuillen's property he would like to convert into Robbins Nest.

At the time, McQuillen's plan was to build 26 homes on 13.1 acres east of Robbins Road and south of Fillmore Street, with prices ranging from $130,000 to $160,000, and sold as part of a planned community to seniors.

In order to move forward, he needed approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which requires a zoning change, which requires approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals (then a joint agency of the town and the village), the village board and the County Planning Board.

He got all of those approvals once, but then the lawsuit voided the village vote and without Taylor and Tucci willing to say yes or no, the board couldn't proceed and McQuillen had to drop his plan.

Now Tucci is off the board, so at a meeting April 13, McQuillen asked during public comments if he revived his plan, would the village board at least vote on it (he didn't ask whether they would approve it). Mayor Greg Rogers polled each board member and all said they would vote on it, if a proposal was brought to them.

Reached today, McQuillen said he is merely exploring the idea of reviving Robbins Nest at this time. Going to the village board was just the first step. He also wants to see how the county might respond.  

Rogers said he was surprised by McQuillen's request. Robbins Nest wasn't an item on the agenda. McQuillen just showed up and asked his question and that's all it was, Rogers said.

We reached out to Barbeau and Boyce for comment. We've yet to get a response from Barbeau; and Boyce declined to comment.

Boyce is one of several plaintiffs, all Presidential Acres residents, in another lawsuit with McQuillen as one of the defendants. The lawsuit is over several duplexes built on the west side of Presidential Acres, which the plaintiffs claim violates the subdivision plan. 

That lawsuit, filed in 2014, is scheduled to go to trial next week.

If you've read this far and the history of this development doesn't seem like enough of a twisted path yet, the history also includes Barbeau being arrested after an altercation with McQuillen over a barn McQuillen built close to Barbeau's property line. Also part of the history, Rogers took responsibility for allowing the village to pave a road owned by McQuillen at the time.

McQuillen said the next step for him to is to go the county to see what kind of response he might get, but County Planning Director Felipe A. Oltramari said there is nothing barring McQuillen from getting the paperwork started with the village. It would be up to the village to submit a request for consideration by the County Planning Board on the zoning change.

It isn't unusual for rejected or stalled proposals to come back up for reconsideration, Oltramari said.

"It often happens that applicants will come back a few months for few years later, depending on how political the issue was," Oltramari said.

UPDATE 8:56 p.m.: Earlier this evening, Steve Barbeau​ responded to our request for a comment.  Here is his statement: "There were and are numerous legal, practical, and ethical reasons why the property in question should not be rezoned."

April 15, 2016 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, Darien, Oakfield, land use, planning, news.

County planners expected a detailed discussion last night about a proposed Arby's restaurant at 8364 Lewiston Road, Town of Batavia, but the applicant withdrew the application earlier in the day.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said he expects the proposal to come back to the planning board at a later date, perhaps as soon as the meeting next month.

There are a few variances needed for a 2,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant at the location, which is across from Kmart where a used car lot is now and next to Jerry Arena's Pizza.

The zoning code for the town requires a 40,000-square-foot lot for such an establishment, but the lot size at this location is only 29,664 square feet.

The builders are proposing parking spaces of 9x18 feet, instead of the required 10x20 feet.

The restaurant will also require three signs instead of the permitted two, with one being a bit larger than the sign ordinance allows.

The owner listed on planning documents is Bill Meland, with a business address of the current Arby's location on West Main Street in the City of Batavia.

In other matters brought to the board Thursday night:

  • The Chamber of Commerce received approval plans to remodel 8276 Park Road, Batavia, which will become the new headquarters for the chamber and the visitors' bureau once it's completed. The project includes a building addition, facade renovations, a new roof and a new accessible ramp.
  • Richard Mistretta is planning to open a record store at 220 E. Main St., Batavia, and received approval for his sign.
  • The Town of Batavia is planning to revise its zoning code to remove the requirement that certain properties in industrial parks be directly accessed from a state highway. The town has granted three variances in recent years and since there might be addition variance requests that would likely be granted, the town is seeking to remove the requirement altogether.
  • The Town of Alabama is extending its moratorium on commercial development for 12 months. This is the third extension sought by the town.
  • Daniel Miller and Padrna Kasthurirangan were approved for a windmill at 10021 Simonds Road, Corfu. The windmill will stand 121 feet tall.
  • The new Waggin (sic) Wheel Restaurant at 8282 Park Road, Batavia, was approved for outdoor cooking and a change to the commercial sign.
  • Suzanne Schultz received permission to hold craft classes at 57 Main St., Oakfield.

The county planning board is not the final word on application approvals. Their approvals are recommendations. Final decisions rest with the planning or zoning boards in each jurisdiction.

June 12, 2015 - 2:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, batavia, land use, planning, O-AT-KA Milk Products, business.

A proposed expansion of the O-AT-KA Milk Products plant at Cedar Street and Ellicott Street Road, Batavia, received a vote of approval from the County Planning Board on Thursday night.

O-AT-KA is contemplating adding a 194,543-square-foot building and a 35,279-square-foot building that will serve as warehouse space and a distribution center.

A spokesman for O-AT-KA repeated several times to reporters last night that the expansion remains a proposal at this time. There's no information available on how O-AT-KA's business might be expanding as a result of the new space.

The location of the new structures would be on the east side of the plant with vehicle access off of Ellicott Street Road.

The board recommended approval of a site plan review with recommended modifications for a stormwater pollution-prevention plan prior to final approval by the city.

Also on Thursday:

The board recommended approval of a site plan review for a 1,620-square-foot addition to the Pavilion Public Library. The expansion, which will include a new children's wing, is funded in part by a $200,000 donation from Edgar Mary Louis Hollwedel. Deborah Davis said the library is also seeking a state grant. The size of that grant could exceed $200,000.

The board recommended disapproval of a zoning map change on South Lake Road in Pavilion. Superior Plus Energy Services was seeking the change to develop a bulk storage and truck distribution center for bulk propane. The 32-acre site is currently zoned agriculture-residential and Superior Plus Energy is seeking a change to industrial. Staff's recommendation was for disapproval because the change would be inconsistent with the town's comprehensive plan and the Future Land Use Map, which plans for agriculture use or residential with minimum lot sizes of five acres.

A planned Dollar General store in Pavilion received recommended approval for its sign. The sign design presented previously by Moeller Sign Co. wasn't approved because it would have meant a sign larger than currently allowed in the zoning code. The new design complies with the code.

January 28, 2015 - 6:03pm

Millennials -- that generation born after 1980 but before the turn of the century -- came of age in a time of economic stagnation, fewer jobs, fewer chances for career advancement, lower pay.

Technology has ruled their lives.

They're getting married later in life, starting families later, and moving to smaller cities in droves.

Buffalo has attracted a 34-percent jump in recent college graduate residents, outpacing bigger cities such as Los Angeles.

All of these trends, and more, are attracting the attention of land use planners and informing a new way of looking at planning, said Felipe A. Oltramari, director of the the Genesee County Planning Department, during a presentation at City Hall this morning on the Millennial Generation.

There are 87 million people born in the Millennial decades, about 11 million more than were born during the Baby Boom years.

What they want out of life tends to be far different than Baby Boomers or even Gen-X.

To them, suburbs are dead.

A higher percentage of them than any previous generation have never had a driver's license. Often, they don't own cars.

They're more environmentally aware and socially connected through their digital devices.

The reason they're flocking to cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Portland and Houston is they're more interested in deciding what lifestyle they want before deciding what job they will take, Oltramari said.

Sixty-four percent settle in a city before they get their first job offer.

"It's going to be a difficult job market any place you go, so you might as well go to someplace where you want to live," Oltramari said.

So why not go to New York City instead of Buffalo?

Because it costs a lot more to live in NYC than Buffalo.

So why come to Batavia instead of Buffalo?

Because, Oltramari said, eventually, as Buffalo attracts more Millennials, the cost of living will rise. Adjacent small cities such as Batavia can offer some of the same advantages of bigger cities, but at an affordable price.

Besides, Millennials are the coming economic driver, so Batavia should be planning to be the kind of community they want now; otherwise, we get left behind.

The planning model for this new urbanism is called "form based."

From the 1920s until recently, all planning was built around zoning codes -- what developers cannot do, not what a community wanted.

Planning zones were radically segregated, not just separating, say, residential from industrial, but apartments from houses, offices from retail space, artisans from factories.

Mix-use was a product of the organic growth of American cities in the 19th Century, but planners tried to stamp it out in the 20th Century.

In the post-War years, as suburbs grew and highways were built to accommodate the booming auto industry, planners replaced dense city blocks with strip malls and paved over culturally diverse neighborhoods.

Batavia, with its white elephant of a mall and Urban Renewal conformity, is an example of a city that lost its soul to parking lots and drive-thru restaurants.

"What planners tried to do was try to make our cities more like suburbs, and what did we get? Very bad suburbs," Oltramari said.

Form-based codes allow cities to set a vision for what they want to be.  

"Conventional planning looks at use, not at form," said Derik Kane, a senior planner for the county, and himself of the Millennial Generation. "In looking at use, you eliminated things you might want, such as small artisans when you moved out the industry, things like that that make an economy and a community. With form-based codes, instead of eliminating things you don't want, you say what you do want."

For developers, new construction and renovation of existing structures becomes a more streamlined process.  

A community with form-based codes doesn't need to require a developer to go through the current lengthy and expensive environmental review process, Oltramari said, because a conforming proposal will already fit within those environmental requirements.

"We need to be moving at the speed of business," said Chris Suozzi, VP of business development for Genesee County Economic Development Center. "Developers don't want delays."

The City Council has already approved funding for a new master plan for Batavia and City Manager Jason Molino said form-based codes will certainly be part of the discussion as the process moves forward.

Urban Renewal did a lot of damage to Downtown Batavia, but there are still positive aspects that can be enhanced.

Kane pointed out that experts in new urbanism recommend you build on successes, rather than trying to fix problems.

For Batavia, that success would center around Jackson Square, especially Jackson Street.

Oltramari suggested borrowing a page from a small Massachusetts city and building over a portion of the parking lot on the west side of Jackson Street and putting up a row of single-story, small retail shops.

Millennials want walkable communities -- remember, they often don't have cars -- which means density, and more retail on Jackson would give them what they want.

County planning is planning on bringing in a walkability expert this summer to study Batavia, but online resources such as WalkScore.com already give Batavia low marks.

On a scale that counts 80 as pretty good, very little of Batavia scores higher than 70 (my house, three blocks south of Downtown Jackson Street, scores 67).  

Greater density and more options downtown would help improve those scores, which Millennials look at when deciding where to live.

One issue planners might wrestle with is Baby Boomers still have an auto-oriented mindset. They demand parking. They expect to park right in front of the store they wish to enter. Any proposal to eliminate parking downtown is going to meet resistance, even as data shows it's not necessary.

People will park and walk, or just walk from their residence, if it's an interesting walk, Oltramari said. 

"Nobody wants to park on the far edge of the Walmart parking and walk to the store, because it's not interesting," Oltramari said. "But if you measure it, they probably walk at least twice that distance once they get inside the store."

People will walk for blocks and blocks at Disneyland, he noted, and then come home and complain if they can't find a convenient parking place downtown.

For Millennials, if they're living and working in a neighborhood they like, parking simply isn't an issue.

"The good news is, we know how to build this way," Kane said. "We built this way for centuries.  Your villages, your main steets, are all walkable places."

Copies of the slides used in Oltramari's presentation along with related material can be found on the Web page for the county planning department.

December 12, 2014 - 7:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Pavilion, planning, land use.

Dollar General would like to build a new store in Pavilion, but the proposal got a cold reception from the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night.

The proposed location is less than 1,000 feet from the high school, and with heavy, speedy truck traffic on Route 63 and no sidewalks between the school and the store, board members thought the location presents a safety hazard.

Planners also thought the proposal doesn't fit within Pavilion's comprehensive plan.

However, the location is the one picked by town officials, Todd Hamula, a development manager for Zeremba Group, who is representing Dollar General in the project.

Originally, the company was looking at a location closer to the school, but town officials were worried about students leaving campus to go to the store, so a compromise was found with the location further away.

The location also gives the town a chance to appeal to the Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit along that stretch of road to 35 mph (the location is right near the current dividing line between a 35 mph zone and 55 mph zone).  

Hamula said Dollar General wants its stores on roads with speed limits less than 55 mph, which ruled out locations further south.

He also said the company picked the location because they believe it's well suited to the comprehensive plan. He said rezoning the property would merely extend the current business district area around Route 63 and Route 19.  

Planners thought it too far away from the current business area to meet that goal.

"We work really hard to make sure we don't bring a proposal for rezoning unless we have local support and that it doesn't go against the comprehensive plan," Hamula said.

While the town seems to take a dim view of a store within walking distance of the school, county planners were scratching their heads over the decision. The original proposed location would have sidewalks and a pedestrian tunnel nearby.

"If the concern here is traffic and kids walking, moving the location does not really solve that," said Board Member Lucine Kauffman. "I think it makes the danger even greater. Now they're walking further and there's no sidewalks."

She thinks regardless of the location, kids are going to walk to it for drinks and food.

"I think it's great idea to have place where kids can walk to after school to have a snack," Kauffman said.

The negative vote doesn't kill the project. The town planning board can still approve it with a vote of a majority plus one.

Hamula said he will pursue that outcome with the town planning board.

July 11, 2014 - 2:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, planning, land use.

Concerns about adequate parking and emergency vehicle access led the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night to recommend against approval for a senior housing apartment complex off Route 5 in the Town of Batavia.

The board's vote is not binding, but it does require the Town of Batavia Planning Board to vote with a +1 margin to approve the project.

The site for the project is 3833 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. It is 33.4 acres and would contain 110 apartment units that would be marketed to middle-income residents age 55 and older.

There's currently no senior housing in the area designed for middle-income residents, said Ben Gustafson, a civil engineer with Hunt Engineers/Architects/Surveyors, and representing the developer, Calamar.

The project calls for 1.5 parking spaces per unit, which is a variance from the town's 2-per unit ordinance. 

Gustafson explained that two per unit is excessive by modern planning standards, the county's own planning goals and what Calamar's studies of its own 15 similar complexes shows is necessary.

In some Calamar locations, the local ordinance requires only one parking space, but even there, because of Calamar's own experience, they put in 1.5.

"What we're proposing is in keeping with sustainable development throughout this country by not providing more parking than is required," Gustafson said. "Our studies show we need far less than two spaces per unit."

Multiple board members expressed concern about 1.5 parking spaces, even so.

"The 1.5 parking per unit is unrealistic," said Mel Wentland, board chairman. "For 55 and older, both members of the family usually have cars. You're under-populating parking spaces. There should be two per unit. There are also people coming to visit, nurses aides, various kinds of help. I don't think the parking (the plan) provides is adequate to meet all the needs of such a community."

Gustafson said it's common for residents in these communities to not even have cars, but if the parking proved inadequate, there's plenty of space on the property that could later be converted to parking if needed.

Another issue is the single driveway for the complex off Route 5.

The main concern of the board is access for emergency vehicles -- what if traffic is tying up the driveway, or there's an accident in front of it?

According to Gustafson, there are fewer than 30 cars an hour that will pass through the driveway, far less than similar-sized units serving younger families. The traffic impact will be minimal and the wide driveway will provide ample room for emergency vehicles.

Board Member Lucine Kauffman said no one on the board is arguing against the need for the project, but that these issues should be addressed before it's approved for development.

November 21, 2013 - 3:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, planning, zoning, Terry Platt, Platt Properties.

Local landlord Terry Platt has brought an Article 78 action against the City of Batavia over a planning committee's denial of his application to open a rooming home on East Main Street, and the Erie County judge presiding over the case indicated in court today he leans in favor of Platt's side of the case.

When Larry O'Connor, representing the city's insurance company, told Judge John Curran that he thought the case was straightforward, Curran responded, "I think it is straightforward and you're running up hill."

O'Connor said he got that feeling after listening to Curran pepper Platt's attorney, Michael Perley, with questions about how the case should be decided.

Platt sought approval from the city in May for a rooming house at 316 E. Main St. and several neighbors came to a meeting of the Batavia Planning and Development Committee and objected to the plan.

The committee voted to deny Platt the necessary approval for the project.

In the Article 78 action, Platt's attorney argues that the proposed use is both allowed by existing zoning, fits the mixed use nature of the neighborhood and could not be denied on any legal basis.

O'Connor said the committee had the authority to deny the application based on the city's Comprehensive Master Plan.

That, however, raises what Perley characterized as a "fatal defect" in the city's case -- there's no proof on the record that the city ever formally approved its master plan.

O'Connor did not provide proof of plan approval prior to arguments in the case and Curran said the record is now closed. O'Connor said, however, he could provide proof of an approval. (Outside of court, O'Connor said Curran could "take judicial notice" of the approval, even if it's not part of the record).

Perley said the city couldn't produce a copy of the master plan when Platt issued a FOIL request for the document earlier this year.

A copy was found and it is now part of the case.

City Manager Jason Molino confirmed later in the day that the City Council did ratify the master plan Feb. 25, 1997. Molino could not comment further on the case.

According to the discussion in the Erie County courtroom of Curran today, Curran must weight the role of the master plan in the committee's decision, whether the master plan gives the committee the authority to reject Platt's application, and whether he should take the extreme step of overturning the decision of a group of community volunteers over a zoning issue.

Curran spent a lot of time asking the attorneys questions about how they propose he decide the case.

"The property is properly zoned?" Curran asked.

"Correct," said Perley.

"There's no defect in the application?"

"Correct."

"There's no request for a variance?"

"There's no need for a variance."

"There's no request for a change in zoning?"

"No."

"There's is no need for a special-use permit?"

"No."

"Both you and Mr. O'Connor have experience in municipal law," Curran said. "You and I both know a lot of municipal law. If I run a (report) for special-use permit legal cases to come up with standards or if I run it for variances to come up with a standard, we know what I'll find. What do I run for this one?"

"The standard you apply is whether or not this decision was arbitrary and capricious," Perley said. "How does the committee deny an application that is proper for the property before it without misapplying the zoning law?"

O'Connor argued that the denial was consistent with the master plan, and Curran honed in on the section that says the permitted uses of buildings on that section of East Main Street (zoned C1, which is mixed use) includes professional offices, small restaurants and other small businesses, but says nothing about single-family residences, so how can the city argue that it wants to preserve the historic nature of the single-family residences?

The master plan as a whole is about preserving and enhancing current single-family residences, O'Connor told Curran.

"This is an area of single-family homes along with limited commercial use," O'Connor said. "The city wants to preserve the integrity and character of that area."

Then Curran laid out his underlying frustration: Neither attorney had filed a memorandum of law.

Such memorandums are often filed by attorneys to provide a judge with their views of how the law and prior legal precedents apply to a particular case.

Perley said he wrote such a memorandum and was surprised it hadn't been filed with the case. Since O'Connor hadn't received such a memo, he hadn't written a response.

Curran agreed to give both attorneys time to file such memos and continued the case to Jan. 30.

The options before Curran include: upholding the committee's decision; overturning the decision and permitting Platt to open the rooming house; or overturning the committee's ruling but ordering the committee to reconsider its decision.

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