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TOWN, DEVELOPER AT ODDS ON TIMETABLE FOR PLAZA

Orchard Park and Benderson Development could be heading for a clash of building cultures.

Benderson, which plans to construct a 158,000-square-foot retail plaza near the corner of Southwestern Boulevard (Route 20) and Orchard Park Road (Routes 24 0/2 77), wants to move quickly and have its project well under way by late summer.

The Orchard Park Town Board is considering a slower approach, deliberating whether it should issue a declaration requiring the developer go through the State Environmental Quality Review process.

While both sides acknowledge the attributes of the project, speed has become the issue.

According to Ralph C. Lorigo, attorney for Benderson, Tops Markets needs to have a building pad on the premises by July 1. Another major tenant that he would not identify needs to be in operation by Sept. 1, according to its agreement with Benderson, he said.

And Kmart, which already is on site, faces deadlines to sign an agreement to stay there, Lorigo said.

"It's already properly zoned, so it's not like we need zoning," Lorigo said. "And 60 percent of the project is already developed, with the Kmart plaza."

The town Planning Board, meanwhile, has recommended that the project be put through the environmental-review process, which Lorigo says could take six to nine months. Among both the Town Board's and the Planning Board's major concerns is how traffic will be handled at the intersection, which is perhaps the town's busiest, with Lake Avenue also sending cars into the mix.

Town Board Member David Buyer and Supervisor Toni Cudney have voiced support for requiring the full review, but Lorigo requested a delay in making a decision during Wednesday night's meeting in hopes of getting a different decision.

After meeting with several other town officials Jan. 30, Lorigo supplied the Town Board on Wednesday night with an inch-thick packet of documents that he says addresses their concerns and could help avoid the environmental-review designation or limit its scope and the time needed to address the issues.

"We think the project is valuable enough that we need some intense work to get it done," Lorigo said. "We don't want to cut any corners whatsoever. But we just cannot have a time frame that drags this out six or nine months. . . . There's a high probability it could be lost if it takes too long."

Orchard Park officials, while supporting the project, have said the environmental-review process need not stop the project. Buyer said the process could have been sped along by starting the review Wednesday night and doing the review concurrently with other planning approvals.

"It's a great project, it really is," said Councilman John Mills. "But he wants to do it like they do it in West Seneca, where they don't have a planning department. But we've raised the standard."

Lorigo, who has done many projects in West Seneca, said he was worked in many other towns as well. He said this project has been in the permit process since July.

"While it's true I have not done a lot in Orchard Park, zoning is zoning," he said. "And the regulations are the same. And in West Seneca, a project like this would have been through in 45 days."

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