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Buffalo News,   January 15, 2001  by Susan Schulman

       Unhappy with the way the current proposal for the St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse is going, the Town of Amherst is ready to look for another plan for the property.

       The Town Board is expected to vote Tuesday on a plan that would effectively end the current negotiations for the motherhouse property and request new proposals from developers interested in the property.

       The current proposal the board has been working with would turn the building into a senior housing development.

       The town is now considering a more general request, wanting to make sure it considers a full range of ideas from prospective developers, said Supervisor Susan J. Grelick.

       The approach was immediately attacked by Council Member Bill Kindel, who said such a broad approach would likely result in ideas that are too intensive for the parklike setting and for the surrounding Williamsville neighborhood.

       He suggested the town appoint a committee of community leaders, including representatives of business, the Zoning Board and neighborhood residents, to identify the appropriate use for the motherhouse and to move the project along.

       Otherwise, he said, the project will remained bottled up, costing the town $5,000 a month in maintenance costs.

       Grelick rejected Kindel's idea, saying there are already people studying the issue.

       The town had initially selected Peregrine Development Co. to turn the motherhouse into a senior citizens apartment complex.

       But that deal appeared to fall apart last week when Town Assessor Harry Williams said the project didn't quality for tax-exempt status, because, according to Williams, the developer didn't prove the project qualified for nonprofit status.

       Peregrine President Stephen S. Bowman initially agreed to pay the town $2.3 million to turn the motherhouse into senior housing. But when the town failed to offer the tax-exempt status, Bowman submitted a revised proposal that town officials are unhappy with.

       Bowman said he is now willing to pay $2 million. Or, if the town removes it requirement that he offer 10 low-income apartments, he would pay $2.12 million.

       Also, the company wants a six-month extension to complete a financing plan that would include financial guarantees from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain financing through the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, town officials said.

       Bowman wasn't immediately available to comment, but town officials said his company may still present yet another proposal Tuesday. If it does, the Town Board will consider that Tuesday. Otherwise, the Town Board is expected to vote obtaining new proposals for the project on that day.

       The Town of Amherst purchased the site from the Sisters of St. Francis religious order to protect the motherhouse and preserve surrounding land as a park after the religious order moved to new facilities last fall.

       The town and state each paid $2.5 million for the historic building and surrounding land, now a state park.

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