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STATE AID SOUGHT FOR CLEANUP AT NEW BUSINESS PARK

Cheektowaga is seeking up to $250,000 in state brownfields money to help pay for environmental cleanup work on four parcels of land in front of the new Walden Commerce Exchange business park off Walden Avenue, west of Harlem Road.

FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., is scheduled to open a $4.5 million distribution center with more than 130 employees in the park in a few months, and the parcels are key to plans for the entranceway and off-street parking, officials said.

The town owns two of the parcels and is interested in buying the other two, they said.

FedEx is building a 60,000-square-foot warehouse/office building on a 14-acre parcel it bought from the town on the east side of the 55-acre park. The entrance will be at Walden and Reo avenues.

The entrance to the balance of the park, when it is developed, will be several blocks west at Walden and Pine Ridge Road, officials said.

The Town Board on Monday authorized Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak to apply for brownfields funding. The grant application will total about $334,000, with the town eligible to receive up to 75 percent of that amount, or about $250,000, said Town Engineer William R. Pugh.

Pugh offered this breakdown of the properties covered by the grant application and their proposed use:

1281 Walden at Reo -- located at the entrance to FedEx, this parcel used to be occupied by a gas station. The town bought it at a county foreclosure sale years ago and has since spent more than $80,000 removing three underground fuel tanks and contaminated soil. The grant money would reimburse the town for 75 percent of those expenses.

1279 Walden -- originally part of the gas station property next door, this parcel may also be contaminated and cost more than $50,000 to clean up. The town would like to buy it, demolish a rental dwelling and build an off-street parking lot for 12 to 15 cars.

1155 Walden at Gualbert Avenue -- a former florist shop with old greenhouses purchased by the town for $30,000. The parcel offers frontage for an off-street parking lot near a signalized intersection. Old records indicate there may have been a fuel tank for heating the greenhouses on the property at one time. Further investigation and cleanup could cost $25,000.

1071 Walden at Pine Ridge -- long proposed as the natural location for the west entrance to the business park, this privately owned half-acre parcel was occupied by a gas station until a couple of years ago. Cost estimates to remove five underground tanks and contaminated soil range from $114,000 to $171,000.

In a related matter, Gabryszak on Tuesday said the idea of building an access road to nearby Harlem Road from the FedEx center has been dropped because the town can't afford it.

Last August, officials said FedEx traffic might be funneled to Harlem after residents complained about the prospect of more trucks, noise and less parking along the two-lane stretch of Walden, west of Harlem.

"No one's going to put the road in, and we're in no position to do it," Gabryszak said Tuesday.

A traffic study indicates that Walden can handle the added traffic, which FedEx estimates will amount to about 40 trucks scattered across each 24-hour period, Gabryszak said. He added that the town is trying to address the parking shortage in the area by providing more off-street parking.

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