Town of Hamburg Comprehensive Plan Update

Tonight, Amanda and I attended the Town of Hamburg’s first public meeting on the update of it’s Comprehensive Plan. This plan, adopted in 1997, is the long term “master plan” for the town. The plan was meant to be revisited every five to ten years, and the Hamburg Town Board initiated this review to address several issues that have come up since related to zoning, land use, waterfront, conservation, transportation, “gateways” into the community, and architectural and landscaping standards. This was an initial meeting to share information about the goals and objectives of this project and to get some initial feedback from residents and business owners to determine what they feel is important to address. Between 30-40 people showed up, which I (and the committee) felt was a pretty good turnout. I was expecting about 5 people. Including us. 🙂

The high level draft goals and objectives provided were as follows:

  1. Excellent open space lands and conservation areas exist in the Town of Hamburg that should be preserved and protected.
  2. The Town will encourage balanced growth to provide for a diverse living environment for its people at all income levels, that builds upon past development and creates a safe environment for the future.
  3. The Town will promote the full utilization of public facilities and services through the management of future growth
  4. The natural resources of the Town will be protected by respecting the development limitations of environmentally sensitive areas and preserving their integrity
  5. The Town will strive to improve and integrated transportation system to provide for the movement of residents, workers, visitors, and goods in a safe and efficient manner

There were many bullets under each of those points, and when this information is posted on the Town of Hamburg’s website, I’ll post a link directly to it.

There were several large maps spread out in the entranceway that allowed for feedback on various topics – traffic concerns, gateway locations, and general concerns, along with current zoning and land use maps. Some statistics that were provided: Since 1970, population in Erie County has fallen from over 1,000,000 people to 930,000. The Town of Hamburg has grown from 47,000 to 56,000. The number of housing units has grown from 14,000 to 23,000. The school population, however, has fallen overall from 13,000 to 10,000 and has been steady for the past several years.

Generally speaking, the amount of land zoned commercial in the Town is relatively small. There is a relatively large amount of land zoned agricultural, however the actual usage of that land is low. Commercial development in the Town is focused along McKinley Parkway, Southwestern Boulevard, and Camp Road.

Public comments covered a wide range of topics, but the overwhelming concern is… sprawl! Many of the residents that moved to Hamburg 15-30 years ago are concerned with the fact that the rural community they moved to is falling victim to commercial development intrusion and increased traffic. Several in attendance wanted to see tighter control and clustering of zones to preserve residential zones as residential and not have proper buffering between residential and commercial zones. Amsdell Road and Southwestern Boulevard are the two hot spots where this is becoming an issue. There was also a large concern regarding the types of commercial businesses that are coming in to Hamburg (big box) and the types that the Town should strive to attract (smaller specialty stores and boutiques). The planners in attendance said this is largely due to the fact that big box retailers follow the population growth and the smaller, upscale retailers follow their target demographics, of which they tend to lean towards going to Orchard Park, which has the highest income and home values. The committee felt, however, that Hamburg could attract more of these types of businesses and were going to make it a focus.

I didn’t make any comments at the meeting, but my own thoughts are that commercial development should increase in Hamburg, but primarily along the designated corridors keeping the impact to bordering residential areas minimal. Also mentioned in the meeting, and another topic I agree with, is that existing structures and areas should be redeveloped before expanding into undeveloped lands. I think Town Hall Plaza could easily be redeveloped into a more attractive, lifestyle center type development, mimicking the recent development of Orchard Acres in Orchard Park. This would help balance the big box development in the Town with a different style of retail, which would be appropriate based on the proximity to the Village of Hamburg. I also think focus needs to be kept on the waterfront. The land use maps don’t show much available space along the waterfront, but I’d love to see more waterfront dining options and of course the preservation of existing recreation areas.

I’m not sure about the whole “gateway” development concept, and it wasn’t really gone into during the meeting. To me, a gateway sounds like you’re not yet where you want to be, just passing through. I’d rather focus on the destinations than the gateways, but there may be more to this issue that I don’t understand yet. We were all encouraged to spread the word about this effort and get people thinking and talking about it. The next public meeting will be in February/March and will start to get more into specific recommendations. I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses!

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