By Alan Rizzo, originally published in Ken-Ton Bee on July 22, 2020.

TM Montante opposes landscaper’s plans for River Road property

Town Board ultimately approves special use permit, with conditions

The Tonawanda Town Board approved a special use permit last week for Red Rose Landscaping to operate at 5445 River Road, but not before twisting the company owner’s arm to make changes due to multiple objections from TM Montante Development.

During the board’s first in-person meeting in four months, attorney Adam Walters objected on behalf of TM Montante to the landscaper’s plans to put concrete storage bunkers at the front of the property, arguing that they would scare away potential renters for an office building TM Montante intends to build next door.

“TM Montante has proposed a Class A office building on River Road immediately adjacent to this site; they’re marketing it now, they’re trying to find tenants,” Walters said. “The idea of selling that office property — that is, a Class A office space with the concrete bunkers immediately next door — that’s going to be a real challenge.”

He also argued that unlike the landscaper’s plans for 5445 River Road, TM Montante’s $10 million plan for the neighboring property is in line with the town’s comprehensive plan and vision for the River Road corridor. Walters said the concrete bunkers proposed for the landscaper’s property are not an allowed use of the property, being neither retail or another similar use, and aren’t in line with the town’s comprehensive plan. He also noted that while there will be limited retail sales taking place, the business will largely cater to contractors as wholesale customers.

“If you look at the use in totality, it seems pretty clear it is not a retail use,” he said. “This town has been working for 40 years to change River Road, from Huntley to the bridge and past. But we’re starting to have some real success, and TM Montante is part of that success.”

Board members were firmly against placing the bunkers near the street, and pressed Red Rose owner Paul Motyka to move them behind the building on the property. Councilman John Bargnesi called the bunkers unsightly, suggesting that they be moved behind a fence on the property and out of view from the road.

Town Supervisor Joseph Emminger clarified with Walters that TM Montante’s plans for the office building are tentative, and may not materialize until five years from now. James Hartz, director of community development for the town, confirmed that no site plan application has been submitted yet for the project.

Motyka said the six concrete bunkers proposed for the Red Rose property would be composed of decorative faced blocks, and the property’s frontage would be dressed up with a landscape plan. He noted that Red Rose would use a site on Military Road for storage, and the frontage on River Road would be used strictly for retail sales of bulk landscaping materials such as mulch. The company’s vehicles would be stored behind a 6-foot privacy fence at the rear of the property.

“Red Rose would like to be part of the solution to cleaning up River Road, not part of the problem,” he said. “There’s no business operations or trucks or trailers that are parked in the front at River Road. It’s simply the retail space that we plan on using for the bulk material, dressed up with the landscape plan, with the addition of trees.”

After a lengthy discussion, Bargnesi persuaded Motyka to move the bunkers behind the property’s privacy fence and out of view from the road. The site plan for Red Rose is now headed back to the Town of Tonawanda Planning Board for review.