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Starbucks ignites latest battle over development in village

Lattes and flavored coffee are brewing in East Aurora's latest development skirmish.

A clash erupted Tuesday over a proposal for a Starbucks at 160 Main St., at the village traffic circle -- calling into question the larger issue of whether the village wants to roll out the welcome mat or close the door to such chains.

A public hearing in Village Hall over a special-use permit for Starbucks generated a fair amount of criticism. Many residents blasted chains that want to open outlets in the village, while complaining that East Aurora already has more than enough coffee shops.

"The traffic circle building has been an eyesore for some time," said Joan Herold, a resident. "One of our most valuable qualities in East Aurora is its small-town atmosphere. I hate that [building] on the circle. I think it looks like one tooth left in an otherwise empty jaw."

She and others reminded the Village Board of a 1999 agreement between Benderson Development and the village that indicated the developer's property at the circle would be limited to small retail and professional offices.

Many critics said they want a better mix of retail and not so many restaurants.

The Evilsizor family of Orchard Park, the owners of Taste, a coffee shop and restaurant that recently expanded into the former Griggs & Ball building on Main Street, turned out to protest the Starbucks plan.

Big corporations cut off small mom-and-pop businesses at the knees, Yvonne Evilsizor said.

Sally Gacek, a resident, said that the village already has plenty of pizzerias and coffee shops. "We're a small town. I don't think we need any more coffee shops, just like banks," she said. "Enough is enough."

For Starbucks, trying to open a 1,500-square-foot store at 160 Main hasn't been a cakewalk. Last summer, the chain dropped plans for a drive-through after the board balked at new drive-through restaurants along Main. Dunkin' Donuts followed suit, but recently won approval for a Main Street site after making some concessions to satisfy the board.

Gary Grote, executive director of the Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce, backed Starbucks. Grote said the Chamber doesn't want to pit one business against another, but recognizes the free enterprise system.

The board tabled any action on Starbucks, saying it needs to complete the required state environmental review at its Jan. 10 work session. A majority of trustees, however, opposed the project.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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