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E. AURORA MAYOR, BOARD REJECT WAL-MART REZONING DEFEATED FOR $12 MILLION PLAZA AT 48-ACRE COMMERCE GREEN SITE

East Aurora officially said "no" to Wal-Mart on Wednesday evening.

The mayor and Village Board voted against rezoning the 48-acre Commerce Green site for a $12 million plaza, which would have included a Wal-Mart store, on the south side of Quaker Road on the village's western edge.

The vote was 5-1, with one absention.

The developer, National Realty and Development Corp., is expected to challenge the vote in court, but its lawyer, Anthony DiFilippo III, had no comment as he left Village Hall after a special meeting attended by 60 residents.

"It's been a long journey for the entire village and this board," said Anne Leary, who headed the successful opposition.

"I think the village took a stand, and the people made their choice through the electoral process. No matter what National Realty can do, they cannot thwart the democratic process of us electing people who left that land industrial."

The two veteran trustees who were defeated last week in their bid for re-election because of their support of the project were the only ones not voting against it Wednesday.

In a rare gesture, Mayor John V. Pagliaccio, who normally doesn't vote except to break a tie, joined the majority in voting against the rezoning.

Dramatically opening a heavy suitcase, Pagliaccio took out all the documents he has had to read on the project since November 1993. The 24-inch stack of paper began to slide off the table.

"This is everything that we have been inundated with," the mayor said. "It has consumed significant resources, considering the size of our village."

Pagliaccio read a letter from an unnamed businessman, a former Boy Scout from East Aurora who now owns his own company elsewhere in Western New York.

The writer thanked the mayor for being a role model and said one of the lessons he learned was "striving to develop your personal integrity." He urged the mayor to "focus on how the public and your peers view how you handle your affairs and responsibilities."

Pagliaccio said the village has "witnessed the good and the not so good elements of human behavior" during the lengthy controversy.

The mayor then recited for the record the steps East Aurora has taken in recent years to protect and expand its retail stores.

He also noted the reasons for zoning the Commerce Green property for industrial uses in 1987 and, in light of the industrial park's slow growth, conceded that "we'll have to double our efforts" to enhance the village's tax base.

Outgoing Trustee Diana Dickson explained her vote for rezoning.

"I think the best use of this property would be for a cemetery," she quipped. "It would be a very quiet use for the land. It also wouldn't generate any tax revenue."

Mrs. Dickson, who voted against the industrial zoning in 1987, said a plaza anchored by a Wal-Mart store would produce more property and sales tax revenues than the present industrial park, which has only a few tenants in spite of generous tax abatements.

"Acme Electric hasn't paid any county or school taxes since they located there six years ago," she said of one tenant. "They've only paid approximately $600 per year for village taxes on property value alone. You can almost be sure, when their tax benefits are gone, they will go back to Cuba, N.Y."

Outgoing Trustee Donald G. Meade explained his abstention.

"I publicly stated I would go with the will of the people on this issue," he began. "I will abstain from voting (because) I still do not feel comfortable that the majority of this village has spoken on this issue."

As residents began loud groaning, Pagliaccio rapped his gavel for silence.

"So I will be comfortable tonight in abstaining," Meade continued. "The will of the people will be done . . ."

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