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July 22, 2020 - 12:01pm

City planners vote to allow 'public garages' in I-1 zone, opening door for Biscaro to resume project

Six months after seeking approval from Batavia City Council to build an auto service station on his Ellicott Street property, Eric Biscaro may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

On Tuesday night, the City Planning & Development Committee voted in favor of allowing what the municipal code classifies as a “public garage” in an I-1 (Industrial) zone, contingent upon the granting of an accompanying special use permit.

Currently, the City code allows auto repair shops in the P-1 (Planned Development) zone, specifically the Batavia Industrial Park, and in a C-2 (Commercial) zone with a special use permit.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall, the PDC’s decision to open the I-1 zone to include public garages will now go back to City Council for its review.

“If City Council decides in favor of it, then it will go to the Genesee County Planning Board for its review and recommendation to Council,” Randall said. “From there, Council again will review the county’s recommendation and hold a public hearing and vote, or schedule a public hearing (prior to a possible vote).”

If and when the change becomes a local law, then Biscaro – or anyone else for that matter – would be able to file an application for a special use permit which, in Biscaro’s case, would mean going back to the County Planning Board since the location is within 500 feet from a state highway.

In late January, Biscaro petitioned City Council for permission to place a motor vehicle repair shop on the site of his other two companies at 653 Ellicott St. – Classic Home Improvements and Armor Building Supply.

Prior to that, his request for a variance was rejected by the County Planning Board because a public garage was not an allowable use in the I-1 district.

Council members forwarded Biscaro’s request to the PDC for review and subsequent recommendation, action that was taken last night.

According to the municipal code, a “public garage” is a building or part thereof used for the storage, hiring, selling, greasing, washing, servicing or repair of motor vehicles, operated for gain.

Randall said that the shop’s principal use would be to repair cars and trucks.

Biscaro’s proposal calls for expanding an existing open shed into a two-bay garage behind the Armor side (of the facility), a building that he said will not be visible from Ellicott Street.

Contacted today, Biscaro said he was disappointed when he learned that the auto repair shop wasn’t permitted in the first place, but is pleasantly surprised to hear of the PDC’s ruling.

“At the time, being in the Industrial zone, I thought it would absolutely be OK,” he said. “Since then, I lost my tenant – he had to find another place – but I still wish to go forward with it.”

In other action, the PDC, as expected, approved a pair of major construction projects:

-- Ellicott Place, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative venture of V.J. Gautieri Constructors Inc., to renovate the Save-A-Lot supermarket building at 45-47 Ellicott St.;

Both projects received recommendations of approval last month from the Genesee County Planning Board.

Following several minutes of discussion about siding materials, color selection, window types and placement, exterior design, dumpster location and designated parking areas, PDC members OK'd Gautieri’s request for a special use permit to allow the firm to create 10 apartments on the vacant, 11,600-square-foot second floor.

The approval, however, comes with the stipulation that additional enhancement – or bump-outs -- be placed around two windows on the south side of the second floor to conform with the rest of the architectural design.

Victor Gautieri, company president, said financing is expected to be finalized by the end of the month, with work to begin about four weeks later.

He and David Rowley, director of project management, answered questions from the board.

PDC Member Ed Flynn, who made the motion to add the window treatment, said the final plans “were pretty consistent to what was (originally) submitted” a couple years ago.

“It’s great to see a DRI project moving forward,” Flynn said.

About half of the project’s cost will be paid for by a $1.15 million DRI award. It also will be receiving about $130,000 in sales tax and mortgage tax abatements from the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Previously: Planning boards to consider Ellicott Place residential/commercial venture special use permits

-- A two-story, 20-bed detoxification center addition to the Atwater House residential facility on the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse campus at 424 E. Main St.

Eleanor Asquith, an architect with Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst of Orchard Park, presented the nonprofit agency’s proposal to build an 8,788-square-foot medically supervised detox center.

Questions from the PDC dealt primarily with the need to install another parking lot (13 spaces), which would increase the available umber of parking spots to 113 – including 18 spaces that are being leased from property owned by Cornell Cooperative Extension off Masse Place.

Asquith pointed out that GCASA officials anticipate that at least 94 parking spaces will be required since the addition of the detox center will create about 26 more jobs.

The $3.6 million addition is being funded by OASAS capital projects.

Previously: 'A welcome addition': County planners support GCASA's detoxification center project

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