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BENDERSON RESUBMITS DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR SUPER WAL-MART, SAM'S CLUB

The developer of a proposed Super Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, who encountered fierce opposition to the proposal two years ago, wants to avoid the same mistake that originally sidelined the project.

The plan to build the chain stores, three restaurants, a gas station and other retail -- totaling 550,000 square feet of development on the site of the former LaSalle High School at 1500 Military Road -- was recently resubmitted to planners with few changes.

It was an error on an environmental form that stalled Benderson Development's proposal to build the huge project, senior city planner Thomas DeSantis said during a meeting of the Planning Board Wednesday night.

As a result, the Planning Board will launch a new environmental impact study.

Planners huddled with Benderson representatives for about two hours during the meeting.

"Are you doing this to avoid down-the-road litigation?" Board member Matteo Anello asked Benderson attorney Terresa Bakner as she went through the forms, line by line.

"I don't mean to insult anybody," she replied. "I just want to make sure there are no questions."

A judge eventually blocked the proposal because the Planning Board forgot to "check" a box at the end of the form pertaining to the project's impact on the community -- even though the Planning Board decided the project would not have an adverse impact.

The decision came during a suit against the city by Citizens Against Sprawlmart, a group opposed to the project.

Bakner also discussed addressing concerns about traffic, noise and drainage. The study will determine whether steps being taken by the developer are sufficient.

For instance, on the average Saturday, the complex is expected to generate more than 2,000 new vehicle trips on Military Road. However, an engineer for the developer said traffic-signal waiting times at the site would not change if the developer proposed changes to traffic patterns and lights.

The site plan must also be reviewed by the Niagara County Planning Board. Also, the City Council must embrace a proposed zoning amendment to subdivide a segment of the 53-acre site. A vote on the site plan is not expected before June.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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