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Erie County Comptroller reports on Inclusionary Zoning


NAIOP’s September Developer’s Summit in Buffalo featured Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who discussed his “Report on Erie County Industrial Development Agency Lower Incoming Housing Component Proposal.” 

When Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz proposed a form of inclusionary zoning in his 2017 State of the Country address, Mychajliw said he took a close look at the data, examining its potential impact on developers who would be required to designate up to ten percent of available apartments in downtown Buffalo as affordable housing.

Mychajliw called it a “very negative proposal.” He said this major initiative blind-sided the development community, which he said the county executive did not consult with developers before raising the idea.  “While inclusionary zoning may have a neutral impact in larger cities like New York and Boston, it cannot work in Buffalo.”

The comptroller talked to developers and bankers about how it would negatively impact the local economy. “To force this would be a monumental mistake.  It would set back the tremendous progress we’ve made in Buffalo over the past 10 to 15 years,” Mychajliw said.

“Requiring low income units in every development project will not put a dent in the affordable housing problem, but you do put every real estate investment at risk,” said Bob Richardson, president of the NAIOP Upstate New York chapter. “Instead of figuring out how to work together proactively (developers and government), the current proposal will force us  to go to government and say, "there is a negative consequence to your requirement" and persuade them to undo it.”

Hamburg Towner Supervisor Steve Walter also addressed the summit, discussing his town’s successful efforts to develop new capacity for business development.

Between 2008 and 2010, local businesses were expanding into Hamburg’s industrial park, which was rapidly running out of space.  That prompted Walter and his team to come up with an innovative plan to acquire a large parcel of property for future economic development.

“We created a land development corporation and purchased 170-acres from Middle Steel,” he said.  “It’s now known as the Lake Erie Commerce Center. We developed that property as one of the few pre-permitted sites in Erie County and all of Western New York.”

To alleviate potential environmental challenges tenants might face at the industrial park, the corporation completed the SEQR (New York State Environmental Quality Review Act) process for the entire site. “Whoever came into the property would not have to take on the risk of objectors suing under SEQR.”

FedEx is now a tenant at the site, occupying 57 acres. They built a 310,000-square foot main facility and three smaller buildings.  Because SEQR approval was already in place, Walter said it took less than three months for FedEx to begin construction once they closed on the sale.

70 acres remain for development on the property.  “It’s a great use of a piece of property that was in an industrial section of the town.  We took proactive steps.”