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Lewiston residents express doubts about plaza plan for village

LEWISTON – Residents were given a second look Monday at one of the largest retail complexes to be considered in the Village of Lewiston in a number of years.

The proposed $9 million project calls for a three-building development with a mix of retail and residential in the 700 block of Center Street. The plaza, bordered by North Eighth and Onondaga streets and owned by William A. Paladino of Ellicott Development, includes retail, restaurants, and 13 one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a drive-thru, on the 4.1-acre lot.

Paladino said building No. 1 would be a single-story structure with a restaurant and two retail stores, building No. 2 would be two-story mix of one retail and one restaurant, and building No. 3 would be a two-story building with retail on the first floor and apartments on the second.

He said that there would be much more green space than required, including gazebos with seating areas, bushes and trees. Although 262 parking spaces are required, the proposal calls for only 189, which he said should be adequate.

“This will be the gateway to the village so it has to look nice,” said Planning Board member Claudia J. Marasco, saying she wanted the green spaces within the project to be a “welcoming oasis.”

The village’s Historic Preservation and Planning Board tried to discuss the issue last month, but the meeting turned into a shouting match involving unhappy residents concerned about the height of the building and traffic entering and exiting the side streets.

Planning Board Chairman Norman R. Machelor said Monday’s meeting was informational because of the amount of interest in the development. Unlike last month, Monday’s meeting included a projector for residents to see the plans and a microphone for residents to express their concerns. No vote was taken at the Monday meeting.

Paladino was not at the August meeting, but on Monday, he told the approximately 75 residents in attendance that the new drawings he presented have taken many of their concerns into consideration.

Notably, a controversial clock tower has been removed from the third building, he said, and that building has been reduced to two stories, from three. Overall, the mixed-use space was reduced to 55,000 square feet, from 70,000, Paladino said, adding that he also eliminated a setback from Center Street so there is direct access from Center Street.

But many residents also want traffic to exit and enter via the busier Center, rather than their residential neighborhoods. However, Planning Board members had rejected that plan, calling it dangerous to exit onto Center.

In addition, it was called a violation of zoning ordinances.

However, the impact of delivery trucks, parking and traffic in the neighborhoods, as well as the project’s effect on the feel of the community, remained worrisome to neighbors.

“You are creating a walkable development, but you are hurting a walkable community,” said Christopher Budde, of Onondaga Street. “There are no sidewalks on those streets,” he said of the bordering side streets.

Paula Burko, of Smith Street, said she moved from Amherst to the “beautiful and quaint” Village of Lewiston.

“Don’t let this become another Amherst,” she said.

David Lorraine, of North Fourth Street, said he was concerned about corporations moving in and putting locally owned businesses, such as the Orange Cat Coffee Co. where he works, out of business.

“People don’t come to Lewiston to go to a Subway,” Lorraine said.

Paladino couldn’t say which businesses would move in, but said he plans to have a mix of national, regional and local businesses.

“We have a developer who presented a plan to us, and we are going to work with that plan to get the best possible result,” Machelor said.

“There’s going to be people who don’t like it and people who do, and there’s not a lot that the Planning Board can do to change that.”