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Board OKs mill lease with Mayer Bros. to sell cider and baked goods

An endangered tradition in Williamsville -- buying jugs of fresh-pressed cider at the old red mill -- got a temporary reprieve Wednesday after the Village Board approved a lease agreement with Mayer Bros. to begin selling cider and baked goods as soon as possible.

During a special session, the Village Board agreed to an $800-a-month lease for Mayer Bros., which runs a successful family-owned cider and bakery operation in West Seneca.

Garrett Mayer, the fifth-generation owner of Mayer Bros., said he will start selling cider and baked goods at the historic Spring Street mill as soon as possible and continue through December.

Because the Williamsville mill has been closed since it was purchased out of foreclosure by the village, this looked to be the first autumn in decades that cider wouldn't be sold at the mill.

The board continues to wrestle with how to revitalize the mill, which it bought for $450,000 earlier this year to preserve it.

It hasn't been easy. The village has received only two proposals for redeveloping the less than one-acre site off Main Street. One is from a firm that would help guide the village through development but has no plans for doing so itself.

The other, by local developer Skip Cerio, involves adding restaurants and other retail -- but also the construction of high-priced condominiums overlooking Glen Park.

At the Wednesday session, nearly all the trustees said condominiums would be unacceptable on the site, though.

And they weren't sure how that would impact the mill's future.

"I think that [condominium development] is the cash cow he needs to make this happen," Mayor Mary E. Lowther said. "If that is the deal breaker, so be it. I don't see the future down there as involving condos."

Trustees are hoping to meet with Cerio by the next board meeting, which is Oct. 11, if not sooner, to see whether they can reach agreement.

In the meantime, they are considering whether to act as their own developers and lease and/or sell the site by parcel to businesses that would retain the character of the site and the mill.

Also under consideration is Mayer Bros.' desire for a longer-term lease. The board is not taking action on that, though, until plans for the mill site are finalized.

Brian J. Geary, a new member of the board, appeared confident that the site will not have trouble revitalizing.

"Once you see the mill going, you will see a metamorphosis [at the site]," he said. "That area could be a hot spot. It will develop on its own."

Still, time is growing short. The next installment on the $450,000 bond used to finance the purchase is due in six months, Lowther said. And finding the money to pay it is a priority.

"My concern is finding a way we can keep the process going without raising taxes," said Trustee Ronald W. Daniels.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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