Amherst residents will be able to identify issues of concern regarding a proposed Wal-Mart Superstore at 4300 Millersport Highway during a "scoping" session March 23.
"It isn't a hearing, exactly," explained Gary B. Black, the town's assistant planning director. "It's not about whether or not people support the Wal-Mart, but it's [intended] to identify and focus the issues that should be reviewed in the environmental impact statement."
In December, developers filed a site plan for a 200,000-square-foot store along Millersport between Smith and New roads. Much of the area is in the flood plain, and residents have complained of frequent flooding in the area.
Last week, the Amherst Planning Board unanimously voted in favor of requiring an environmental review of the proposed superstore. That means the board believes there could be some negative environmental consequences from the project, and the developer will have to show how those problems will be addressed.
As a side issue, the Planning Board also discussed recommended zoning changes for the Millersport corridor. Those recommendations were drawn up at the request of the Town Board, after town lawmakers passed a resolution at the board's Jan. 17 meeting directing the Planning Department to review existing commercial zoning along Millersport Highway from North French Road to Transit Road.
Among the recommendations is the designation of an urban village with "a neighborhood scale commercial center and mixed residential densities." The Town Board is reviewing a proposed zoning code that would be referred to as a Traditional Neighborhood Development District.
According to Planning Department officials, it would have "identifiable centers and edges that are consistent in scale with the surrounding neighborhood."
A rezoning of that 67 acres of property in the town's northern sector would practically prevent Wal-Mart from building its proposed 200,000-square-foot superstore on Millersport Highway.
The company already has a superstore on Transit Road, about six miles from the Millersport site, and it has been trying for several years to establish another in a shopping center on Transit Road in Lockport.
In Lockport, Wal-Mart plans to demolish the 285,000-square-foot Lockport Mall and build a 186,000-square-foot store on about 18 acres of the 28-acre site.
It also has a store on Niagara Falls Boulevard.