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WEGMANS SEEKS SOLUTION TO SENIOR CITIZENS' PROTESTS

Wegmans is still coming under fire from senior citizens over its plans to demolish its store at Sheridan and Essjay drives and build a bigger one on the same site.

The Amherst Planning Board approved the plans 4-2 Thursday night. Members Paul A. Beyer and Debra A. Norton voted no. David Winzig was absent.

The board held off approving the plans in August because of residents' concerns.

The supermarket is surrounded by senior citizens who will have no where to shop and get medicine while the new store is built.

"Wegmans is our lifeline," said Edgar Sarles, 88, of the Jewish Federation Housing apartments. "We depend on it for our food and medication."

Wegmans may have a shuttle take the seniors to another store during the transition, said Arthur Pires, project manager of Wegmans Development Group.

But the seniors said that plan wouldn't work.

"I can't carry four or five bags of groceries home," said Betty Weinberg, an 81-year-old resident of the nearby Georgetown Apartments. "And I'm not about to grocery shop every day of the week."

Planning Board President Catharine Weiss suggested the store consider home delivery for its older customers during the transition.

While food shopping may be a hassle for the next year, Wegmans is trying to make it easy for seniors to get their medication, Pires said. Wegmans wants to put a temporary pharmacy in a trailer on the site.

Wegmans said it decided to completely demolish the store because keeping an old one partially open while building a new one hasn't worked in other locations.

The construction hampered and inconvenienced both employees and shoppers, Pires said.

The current store is 90,000 square feet. The new one would be 113,500 square feet and should open in November 2000.

The new store would have the chain's trademark brick bread ovens, along with a coffee bar, submarine sandwich shop and a WKids child-care center.

In other matters, the board:

Approved 6-0 the rezoning of 5.8 acres at 120 New Road. The owner wants to build up to three houses on the site and keep the existing barn. Several neighbors protested, saying the construction would make flooding in their area even worse.

Tabled plans to build four estate-like homes in the 500 block of Klein Road. Many residents and one environmental expert cautioned the board that there were old trees and rare wildflowers on the site.

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