VOLUME 33, NUMBER 2 THURSDAY, September 6, 2001
ReporterThe Mail

ETF assails plan for Skinnersville student housing

send this article to a friend

To the Editor:

The UB Environmental Task Force has gone on record opposing the recent hurried decision to build yet another student housing complex at a site—along the south side of Skinnersville Road near the Ellicott Complex—and in a time frame that members believe are ill-advised. The ETF recently voted to send a statement to Michael Dupre, director of facilities, with copies to President Greiner, Senior Vice President Wagner and Vice President Black requesting that this project be delayed in order to elicit true campus and community input. This is not a question of whether or not to build more housing, but a question of rush-to-build decisions that:

  • Violate campus policies
  • Deny genuine input from campus and community publics
  • Destroy pastoral areas of the campus while emulating the worst aspects of sprawl
  • Contribute to the "uglification" of the campus with all of the resulting quality of life, practical and aesthetic problems
  • May be at cross purposes with contracted design planning by Stieglitz Snyder Architecture, the firm UB hired to design a plan for housing and support facilities along Lee Road
An abridged version of the statement sent by ETF members follows: As members of UB's Environmental Task Force (ETF), we strenuously object to the siting of another student apartment complex along the south side of Skinnersville Road near Ellicott Complex. Our objections are as follows:
  • Master planning. New on-campus student housing might best be accomplished through the Lee Road Corridor master-planning process. Incorporating residential units in the Lee Road project will increase density and improve the financial viability of campus commercial development. The Skinnersville project weakens the Lee Loop proposal. Interestingly, architects planning the Lee Loop proposal were not informed about Skinnersville.
  • Natural areas. The Skinnersville site should be preserved as one of the last pleasant pastoral spots on campus. The area to the west of Bizer Creek is particularly attractive and serves as a wildlife habitat. Making the campus more aesthetic and attractive—thus boosting recruitment and retention—can best be accomplished by saving and restoring remaining natural areas.
  • Sprawl. The selected location is away from the campus center and will exacerbate the sprawl problem on this campus. UB's Protected Natural Areas Policy states that "the university commits itself to an anti-sprawl policy that incorporates consideration ofÉsiting of new buildings within built-up areas of the campus to create a denser urban core." As "smart growth" campaigns in the wider community have demonstrated, sprawl is a major issue. Sprawling campus development is socially detrimental to the campus community and encourages on-campus driving by campus residents.
  • Environmental policies. The decision to proceed with this new apartment complex violates two approved UB environmental policies that the ETF labored long and hard to develop: the Campus Protected Natural Areas Policy and the University Facilities Policy and Procedure for Environmental Review and Public Participation. These are sensible policies and we insist they be followed. Both of the policies call on the university to conduct a public-participation process, yet a legitimate public-participation process could not occur since the announcement was made only after students and most faculty had left for the summer. A legitimate participation process requires that the university community be available to comment. Additionally, a legitimate process presumes that final decisions on whether to build and on siting could be influenced by input gathered from the participation process. This presumption is violated by the apartment plan because these decisions already have been made and groundbreaking may be imminent.
  • State regulations. We would like to caution the university about compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Not only is the university obliged by state law to comply with this act, but the approved University Facilities Policy and Procedure for Environmental Review and Public Participation states that UB "will make every effort to comply with the letter and spirit of (SEQRA)É" (emphasis added). Since the planned Skinnersville Road apartment complex clearly is now part of a much larger UB apartment-building plan that in its entirety exceeds the SEQRA "Type 1 Action" residential unit threshold of 250 units—see section 617.4(b)(5)(iii)—it reasonably can be argued that an Environmental Impact Statement now is required. Segmentation of projects to reduce environmental review requirements is a violation of SEQRA—see section 617.4 (b) (iii)). Moreover, UB policy calls on the university to abide by the "spirit" or intent of SEQRA—which is full participation and full environmental review. Giving this project a "negative declaration" in order to expedite construction, which is what has occurred, is blatantly inconsistent with this important public commitment.


Joseph Gardella, Ellen Goldbaum, Gerry Kegler, Pam Rose, John Russo, Lynda Schneekloth, Walter Simpson, Jim Ulrich and Bill Wachob

Environmental Task Force members

Front Page | Top Stories | Photos | Briefly | Q&A | Electronic Highways | Kudos
Letters | Mail | Obituaries | Sports | Exhibits, Notices, Jobs
Events | Current Issue | Comments?
Archives | Search | UB Home | UB News Services | UB Today