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August 24, 2017

How Elmwood Became a Test of the New Green Code

Mark Chason wanted to build a four-story, 315-foot-long condominium building at the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues.

He had already lowered the height by one story and shortened the length by five feet to address neighborhood objections. But, he argued, he couldn't do any more because he needed the project to work financially.

So he sought eight exceptions from the city's new Green Code.

To Chason's company, the request was a necessary and appropriate application of state and local law.

Seven months after Mayor Byron Brown signed the city's new zoning and land-use rules into law, the Green Code has touched off neighborhood controversies, as developers and city residents debate what it means. Meetings have turned tense over variances for projects, particularly in Elmwood, and disappointed opponents have threatened to sue the city over its decisions.

"Thousands of hours went into the Green Code," said Carl Dennis, an Elmwood resident and University at Buffalo English professor. "All kinds of money was spent, and the mayor got all kinds of free publicity about how progressive it was, and then these variances nullify its effects."

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