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BOARD PUTS BRAKES ON NATURE TRAIL, OKS TOPS STORE

The Orchard Park Town Board put the brakes Wednesday night on a proposed nature trail behind Eagle Heights but gave a Tops supermarket proposal the green light.

The board approved a resolution withdrawing the town's grant proposal for state funds to apply toward a trail behind the Eagle Heights subdivision. Though the trail would have been on town property, the proposal enraged many residents, who believed it would be a security risk and compromise their privacy.

Meanwhile, the board approved a Benderson Development site plan for Tops and another retail store at the site of the Kmart plaza near the corner of Southwestern Boulevard (Route 20) and Orchard Park Road (Routes 240 and 277).

While the town board approved withdrawing a request for a $78,000 grant toward the Eagle Heights trail, it also requested the state authorize transferring another $60,000 grant for use on trails in the Birdsong Parklands.

The board also approved the creation of a trails task force to take a broader look at the issue, sparking some disagreement over whether the Eagle Heights proposal was truly dead.

"It doesn't bring closure," Councilman John Mills said after the meeting. "Closure is saying we're not going to do it, period. . . . This leaves it open. If the task force recommends it, it's right back on the table."

Councilwoman Nan Ackerman, who co-sponsored the move, disagreed.

"The intent is to bring closure, and I think it does," she said. "Any town board can make a new resolution, but at this time it means it's our word that we won't. This means we are not going to do it."

Town Supervisor Toni Cudney, who had been one of the trail's strongest supporters, said the public outcry had made the difference.

"There were a lot of people nervous and scared about the trail," she said. "You just don't want to force that kind of thing on people. But they will have to remember it still is town land and open to the public."

Meanwhile, Robert Rucker was named to chair the task force, which is to report back to the Town Board in six months on whether trails are appropriate in the town and if so where the best locations might be.

Also named to the group were Anne Bergantz, Audrey Ramage, Tom Koller, Richard Gernold, Michael Moore, Edward Rider and Lyle Toohey. The town is looking for one more member from the northern part of the town.

The board approved Benderson's plan for the Tops/Kmart plaza with a series of requirements, but Ralph Lorigo, the attorney for Benderson, said he expects the developer to be able to meet them in time to finish a construction "pad" by July 31, allowing Tops to build this summer.

Among the requirements are deals with neighbors to allow traffic lights to be placed at exits onto Orchard Park Road and Southwestern Boulevard.

"What we're doing here is going to assist the traffic," Lorigo said, referring to the sometimes harrowing intersection of Orchard Park Road, Southwestern Boulevard and Lake Street. "All of (the deals) have been agreed to, they just haven't all be formalized yet."

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