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Wal-Mart proposal to get public review Lockport board to set date for dual hearing

Public review apparently will resume next month on the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposal for the Lockport Mall site.

In a work session Tuesday, the Town of Lockport Planning Board agreed to vote at its regular meeting Feb. 22 on a date for a dual public hearing on a special-use permit for the South Transit Road project and on the retailer's draft environmental-impact statement.

Town Planner Andrew C. Reilly recommended that the board schedule the hearing for the last week of March. He also said the board needs to decide whether the Town Hall meeting room will be big enough, given that hearing on Wal-Mart in 2004 drew overflow crowds.

The only other action the board might take on Wal-Mart next week would be to accept the draft environmental-impact statement as a basis for the hearing.

Wal-Mart has provided about 1,000 pages of material in response to town officials' and residents' questions at previous hearings.

Reilly told the board that the material "is the applicant's opinion. We don't agree with everything in this study, but we don't think you should keep making changes in it, because that keeps the public out of it."

Board member Barbara Brewer said that as long as Wal-Mart has made some sort of reply to every issue, "that should be sufficient to start the discussion."

Reilly said that once the draft is accepted, presumably next week, the material will be made public and would be available for inspection in Town Hall and the Lockport Public Library. After the hearing is held, state law requires that the public comment period be kept open for at least 10 more days.

For the project's permit to be approved, the town and Wal-Mart must agree on a final environmental-impact statement. "We have control over the next step," Reilly said.

Planning Board Chairman Lester J. Robinson Jr. said he questions Wal-Mart's seeming lack of concern over reuse of its existing store. That property is to be swapped to General Growth, owner of the almost-empty Lockport Mall.

Wal-Mart plans to demolish the mall, except for the Bon-Ton store, and construct a 185,000-square-foot combination supermarket and general merchandise store that would share a parking lot with Bon-Ton.

Reilly said, "I don't think they've been very responsive on the pedestrian-access issues." He also said the town could hire its own consultant to test Wal-Mart's assertions on traffic levels.

On another topic, the board appeared ready to approve the plan for the Lockport YMCA's new complex on Snyder Drive. Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said no further public hearing is needed, since the Town Board held one before rezoning the property, and final action could come at next week's meeting.

The $10 million complex is to include a gymnasium and a swimming pool, along with many athletic fields and 407 parking spaces. Reilly said a literal reading of the town building code would require 1,500 parking spaces, given the size of the project, but he said the Planning Board has the authority to set what it considers adequate parking.

The only unanswered question is whether a height variance would be required, and that is up to Senior Building Inspector Eugene Nenni.

YMCA Executive Director Mark Albiez said the curved roof of the pool at the south end of the building might be a couple of feet higher than allowed, depending on how it is measured.


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