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A proposed new Tops mega-market in the Village of East Aurora has been attacked by a newly formed group called the West End Homeowners Opposed to Plaza Expansion.

Monday the village board received a letter from them opposing the project, then asked village attorney Thomas Andruschat to investigate their charge of improper rezoning practices.

WEHOPE said it opposes efforts by Aurora Village Shopping Plaza owner Benderson Development Corp. to rezone additional property north of the plaza for commercial use.

The letter claims to "represent the concerns of dozens of homeowners in the vicinity of the Shopping Center" on Grey Street but only lists four names. It accuses Benderson of "subdividing the property it purchased at 105 Knox Road without going through the subdivision approval procedure . . . (in) the Village Code." Knox Road is north of Grey Street.

Thus, WEHOPE says, Benderson now has a piece of landlocked residential property and that its border with the existing plaza is separated by a fence "Therefore, it can be of no practical use in its current configuration."

Benderson so far has only held "informational" meetings with residents and village officials, and has presented no formal requests either to the Village Board or the Planning Commission, said Village Administrator Patrick Richey.

The letter asks the village to "urge" Benderson to pursue formal subdivision procedures so a public hearing will be mandated.

The situation seems reminiscent of an outcry two years ago against National Realty Development Corporation's bid to rezone Commerce Green at the village's western border to allow Wal-Mart to open a retail store on the site.

Tops shelved its plans to move to Commerce Green as a "co-anchor" after considerable opposition to Wal-Mart materialized. Tops' withdrawal was widely viewed as a contributing factor to the Commerce Green rezoning being denied.

Tops promised to find a new location to replace its aging store at the "circle," a store company officials say is too small to handle current customers. Benderson plans a new "Tops International" market at the north end of the plaza, provided the company can buy sufficient land and obtain any necessary rezoning.

Knox Road resident Arthur Giacalone, an attorney hired by the Village Board as special counsel during the Commerce Green rezoning in 1994, has spoken against ther plaza expansion at recent Village Board meetings.

His name does not appear on the letter, which carries the signature of Robert A. Sowyrda as "spokesperson." The letter notes three "members of our group:" Gregg Gonzolez and Wendy Mix whose properties abut the Knox Road parcel, and David Gurney "who lives a short distance away."

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