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Project Description

The Opportunity Zones incentive is a community investment tool to encourage long-term private sector investments in low-income communities nationwide. Opportunity Zones are low income census tracts into which investors can now put capital to finance new projects in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax incentives. An Opportunity Zone can receive funds from Opportunity Funds which enable a broad array of investors to pool their resources, increasing the scale of investments going to these areas.

Within the Town of Amherst, one Opportunity Zone was designated – Census tract 92. This triangular area is bounded by Niagara Falls Boulevard on the west, Sheridan Drive on the south, and the Interstate (I-290) on the north and east. This largely commercial area of the Town has seen a great deal of development and investment over the past few decades, but as changing market trends and new technologies have emerged, it has begun to decline. The area contains large “big box” stores and strip plazas that are aging and in some cases underutilized, along with the Boulevard Mall which is experiencing growing variances and declining in value with corresponding impacts on the Town’s tax base.

This Opportunity Zone designation provides the Town a chance to reimagine and redevelop one of its largest and most successful commercial areas in a comprehensive manner. The goal is to encourage mixed-use development and increased density, maximize economic investment and tax revenue, improve mobility and pedestrian access via public transit, bicycling, and walkability, invest in aged infrastructure systems, and protect and enhance surrounding residential neighborhoods. The area’s location along Niagara Falls Boulevard and other major thoroughfares in the Town, its adjacency to the I-290, and being located near the University at Buffalo North Campus positions it to be a regional destination and major reinvestment area for the Town and the Western New York region.

Before future development occurs and in order to identify infrastructure needs and environmental impacts, a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for this Opportunity Zone will be prepared. The GEIS is an environmental analysis prepared under the SEQR process which ultimately identifies environmental impacts and mitigation measures as the environmental review is completed and impacts have been identified, making it easier and more efficient for new development to occur.

To establish the GEIS, assumptions regarding future land uses and corresponding zoning districts will be prepared and utilized. Development projections, such as the type and density of uses, are needed to identify associated impacts to community services, infrastructure, and the environment. The cumulative and long-term impacts of the projected growth is analyzed, and procedures and policies to guide future development within the area will are developed and approved by the Town. These projected land use changes and new zoning classifications, along with associated infrastructure assumptions will result in amendments to the Comprehensive Plan policies and figures.

A major result of the analyses that is incorporated into the GEIS is the requirement that the developer of each new project contribute a proportionate share of the cost of infrastructure improvements such as roadway, sanitary sewer, and water system upgrades needed to offset the impacts of that development ("development mitigation costs"). A mitigation schedule is established to identify the fees to be collected and allocated to specific infrastructure improvements to offset development factors.

The Town will prepare land use and zoning plan for the Opportunity Zone area, along with corresponding infrastructure needs and a GEIS. Through the Plan and GEIS the Town will communicate to future developers and the region its comprehensive future vision for this area of Town.

About Amherst

The Town of Amherst was established in 1818 and celebrated its 200th Anniversary in 2018. The town has a geographical area of 53.6 square miles and a population of greater than 122,000.

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  • General Information:
    (716) 631-7000
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    Municipal Building (Town Hall)
  • 5583 Main Street
  • Williamsville, NY 14221