v        Preserve and strengthen the economy of the town and encourage a growing and diversified economic base.

v        Focus commercial development along the length of Grand Island Boulevard, with maximum density at the Central Business District, and lesser density in the business districts north and south of that area.

v        Provide opportunities for commercial development by lessening restrictions on the locations of permitted commercial uses while promoting a cohesive “village scale” appearance.

v        Implement guidelines that promote a cohesive appearance by creating a common set of streetscape relationships between structures, landscaping, signs, parking, and sidewalks in business districts.

v        Attract desirable industrial and business uses, as well as mixed use office/research park; encourage the siting of industrial and commercial uses along the New York State Thruway.

v         Provide for commercial development that meets the community’s need for business development along the waterfront.

v         Provide for small scale commercial development in residential neighborhoods, which enhances those neighborhoods by providing locations for businesses to supply basic goods and services.

v         Minimize the impact of commercial development on the surrounding residential neighborhood by requiring commercial structures to blend into adjoining residential neighborhoods, and minimizing the impact of automobile traffic, noise, light, and odors on adjoining residential neighborhoods.




Research has shown that in order to create a viable business district, a dense “commercial core” should be born of and supported by a “critical mass” of residential development. The Town of Grand Island is unique in that development of its primary commercial district is strongly influenced by the placement of the north and south Grand Island bridges. Grand Island Boulevard’s role in connecting the bridges has spawned commercial development along its length forming the “commercial spine” of Grand Island, which must be developed in a comprehensive manner in order to create a viable business district.


Grand Island’s shoreline presents limited but definite opportunities for development that must be capitalized on in a comprehensive manner. Grand Island’s Waterfront Revitalization Plan had been combined with zoning regulations, establishing the “Waterfront Business District”.  Zoning regulations have also established the “Hamlet Business District” in two areas of the town that are intended to serve as small-scale neighborhood developments capable of supporting the daily needs of the areas in which they are developed.


The New York State Thruway corridor presents opportunities for commercial development uses that do not necessarily fit the “village scale” appearance sought for Town Center, or that would not be fitting in Hamlet or Waterfront Business districts. This corridor presents opportunities for businesses seeking larger facilities, and/or high visibility for their business uses, and lends itself to the creation of Highway Business District zoning to accommodate this type of development.


Manufacturing uses are not commonly found on Grand Island, and do not generally fit the vision for the Town Center, Hamlet, or Waterfront business districts. While these uses are not generally looked upon favorably, consideration should be given to accommodating limited opportunities for light manufacturing in areas which do not present conflicts with surrounding uses.



Analysis and Recommendations:


Town Center Business Districts:


Past comprehensive plans have focused only on the business district immediately surrounding Grand Island Town Hall, and have not acknowledged the commercial and multi-family development, which have developed along the north and south approaches to this area. Additionally, the streetscape envisioned under the previous Comprehensive Plan was unable to be implemented due to restrictions placed on the configuration of Grand Island Boulevard by the jurisdictional agency, the New York State Department of Transportation.


The Town Zoning Code, developed in response to the previous Comprehensive Plan, focused primarily on regulating uses in this geographic area by establishing a set of five Town Center sub-districts, thereby establishing a commercial core. Zoning in the north and south approaches to this area were left as general business districts with no relationship to the central Town Center.


The effect of this approach has been to artificially limit the uses that could be developed in these areas due to the limited supply of land available for particular uses in given zoning districts. In effect, a developer planning a particular building use will be limited to a particular commercial district that may or may not fit his/her particular development needs.


While the previous Comprehensive Plan set forth the vision of development that fit a “village scale” appearance, development since that plan’s adoption has not conformed to that vision. Though the 2004 Zoning Code contained design and performance standards these standards were vague, containing no substantive regulation requiring the consistent theme “village scale” calls for.


As a result of the analysis stated above, it is clear that a complete revision of the zoning codes affecting Grand Island Boulevard and Town Center, including a comprehensive set of written guidelines, was necessary to ensure future development in the village scale style.


In 2007, the Town adopted formal “Design and Performance Standards,” which created a comprehensive set of regulations promoting consistency in design of buildings, the arrangement of buildings and parking on sites, and their relationship to the street. These standards must be coordinated with revisions to the current zoning to ensure future commercial development takes on the characteristics envisioned.


The first step recommended in the process is to acknowledge that Grand Island’s Town Center has and will continue to develop “bridge to bridge” along Grand Island Boulevard, and to adopt zoning regulations which will promote the following goals:


v        Reduce the number of zoning classifications along the length of Grand Island Boulevard to three.

v        Combine the five existing Town Center districts into one Central Business District.

v        Create North and South Town Center districts to govern zoning from the bridges to the Central district.

v        Lessen the restrictions on which uses are permitted in these districts.

v        Utilize size and density regulations to focus more intensive commercial and multi-family developments to the Central district while allowing less dense commercial and multi-family development in the North and South districts.

v        Subject all three Town Center districts to the town’s Design and Performance Standards.

v        Promote visual continuity in the appearance of developments as seen from travelling vehicles by requiring consistency in plantings, reinforcing a common streetscape in the Town Center.


Recommendations as to the permitted and special uses as well as to the allowable size and density for developments in these districts are contained in the “Matrix of Permitted and Special Uses for Town Center Districts” contained in Appendix “???”. This matrix establishes recommendations regarding the size and density of permitted uses within the business districts. It establishes low, medium, and high density thresholds for the pertinent uses, and generally dictates that low to medium density development be permitted in the North and South Business districts, while dictating that medium to high density development be permitted in the Central district.


It is recommended that all new developments be required to establish a “tree line” along the right-of-way line as a means of creating visual consistency along the major roadways in the business district. Larger trees that grow into a canopy appearance are recommended to help create a sense of less dense environment in the North and South districts. More ornamental, lower growing trees that appear to be lighter and more airy are recommended in the Central district to help create the vision of a denser commercial core.


To further the goal of enhancing the natural environment, the preferred method for site planning shall be to set parking areas to the rear and side of buildings wherever practical, and to screen from view all parking areas from the roadway. Where circumstances dictate that parking areas must be located in front of the building face, landscaped berms, planters, or masonry walls are the preferred screens. 


Dominating signage detracts from the visual harmony of the Central district. While signage is a necessary business identification tool, it can be an effective tool without imposing on the visual environment. It is recommended that each development be limited to one sign identifying it by name and street address, and that it be limited to a height of ten feet and a length of twelve feet.


Neighborhood Business Districts:


In addition to providing a strong commercial core, there is a clear need to provide for commercial development to supply goods and services to the community at points of need outside Town Center. As such, the current zoning code has designated Waterfront Business districts at key points for commercial activity along the Town’s shoreline, and Hamlet Business districts in two residential neighborhoods.


Waterfront districts shall serve to host water-related businesses such as marinas, boat sales and service businesses, boating clubs, restaurants, hospitality industry uses, and small retail stores. With the exception of the Waterfront district located at the east end of Whitehaven Road, these districts are located in neighborhoods primarily residential in nature, and future development must be done in a manner that preserves the character of the surrounding neighborhoods.


The Hamlet districts are located in two well-established residential neighborhoods. The intent of these is to provide conveniently located small-scale businesses offering goods and services within walking distance of nearby residences. Future development must be carried out in a manner that enhances the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which they occur, and should minimize any negative impacts associated with development.


The following recommendations are (?) adopted to address objectives related to the goal of meeting the localized commercial needs of the community without drawing substantial development away from the Town’s center, and without adversely impacting the character of the surrounding neighborhood:


ü      Utilize community outreach techniques to gain public input on design issues affecting the surrounding neighborhood prior to making the substantial planning decisions.

ü      Emphasize pedestrian friendly access as part of design to encourage use of the development without the need for motor vehicles.

ü      Use natural and manmade landscaping elements to separate commercial developments from adjoining residences, and minimize impact on quality of life in the adjoining residences.

ü      Limit the size of the structures permitted in these districts to that which is in keeping with existing structures in surrounding neighborhoods.

ü      Utilize design standards to promote residential character in commercial structures so they blend well with adjoining residential neighborhoods, creating a positive aesthetic relationship between the two.

ü                 Utilize performance standards to influence the design of commercial sites to minimize the impact  of automobile traffic, noise, light, and odors on the adjoining residential neighborhood.

ü                 Special consideration should be given to encouraging the revitalization of the Love Road hamlet in a manner that is consistent with the standards for new developments. 


Waterfront Business Districts


Though Grand Island has an abundance of shoreline, the majority of the land is residentially zoned or designated as parkland. The primary opportunities for business development are located along the shoreline in the Ferry Village area, and on East River Road around the intersection of Whitehaven Road


This land use was created to encourage development of the town's Niagara River recreational resource as part of its overall economic development strategy, and to provide water‑oriented recreation facilities for residents.  Given the apparent demand for boat slips and opportunities for river access, several areas have been designated for this use.  Many are currently in operation as service centers. Characteristics of this land use may include:


·         Marine Service Center areas consistent with recommendations of the Horizons Waterfront Commission.

·         Shoreline developed with bulkhead, dredged and artificially protected harbor providing numerous docks and slips and a boat launch.

·         Private or town ownership.

·         Adequate parking area for vehicles and trailers.

·         Restaurants, concession stand type businesses, and tackle shops may be associated with Marine Services Center.


The Town should explore the potential for cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation as a vehicle for establishing Niagara River access at Ferry Village.  This project might be undertaken as an element of the Town Park recommended for the southern end of River Road just north of the state's East River Marina.


Additional study of the proposal to create a Marine Service Center in the southwestern corner of Buckhorn Island State Park indicated that boat launching may not be practical at that location.  The Land Use Plan, therefore, recommends that a passive recreation area be established there.


Highway Business Districts


Commercial development along the New York State Thruway corridor has primarily taken the form of larger office and research facilities, and automobile dealerships. Development of this type should be focused along the length of the thruway corridor rather than in the other business districts, as they provide Grand Island with substantial opportunities to increase its tax base by accommodating business uses requiring larger floor areas, and/or high visibility.


Analysis of current zoning codes reveals that no concerted approach has been taken to reinforce development opportunities for these types of businesses along the thruway corridor. To foster this objective, it is recommended that the Town establish a Highway Business zoning code classification, which would allow for development promoting:


·         Accommodation of commercial uses not favored in a village scale, residential, or waterfront setting.

·         Accommodation of economic activities reliant on highway exposure for economic survival.

·         Considerable parking, building height, and/or floor area allowance.

·         Accommodation of business uses generating larger volumes of traffic.

·         Promotion of uses as corporate headquarters, office buildings, and research facilities.

·         Allowance for larger signage not favored in other commercial areas.

·         Allowance for building aesthetics not favored in village scale, or residential settings.

·         Allowance for light manufacturing opportunities presenting neither pollution issues nor conflicts with adjoining uses.

·         Elimination of large outdoor storage yards for materials or items that detract from overall aesthetics.


It is also recommended that the Town’s Design and Performance Standards be further developed to ensure that building projects in Highway Business Districts are completed in a manner that reinforces a positive image of the Town as perceived by travelers along the New York State Thruway. The standards developed should address the following issues:


·         Reinforce the “high tech” aesthetic that has developed along the thruway corridor.

·         Require higher-quality finishes, and discourage low-quality materials such as metal siding and plain masonry block.

·         Control building heights, massing and unbroken lengths to facilitate a more appealing aesthetic appearance.

·         Promote a campus setting by requiring green space and landscaping affronting the thruway and adjoining roadways.

·         Establish visual screens and substantial buffers to adjoining residential zones.


Consideration should be given to the expansion of current Highway Business areas, by the creation of overlay zoning that permits future development in areas not currently appropriately zoned.



Manufacturing Business Districts:


Current zoning permits certain manufacturing uses in “M-1”, and “M-2” districts, and provides adequate opportunities for these uses. No expansion of these areas is recommended. Consideration may be given to inclusion of provisions for the appearance and siting of future developments in these districts by further development of the Town’s Design and Performance Standards.