The Wal-Mart Supercenter project Thursday received the first of several approvals it will need before the 186,000-square-foot store can be built on the Lockport Mall site.
The town Planning Board unanimously voted that the project won't cause any negative environmental impact that alterations in the plan haven't solved.
A special-use permit, an approval of the site plan and approval of the plan to subdivide the mall property at South Transit Road and Shimer Drive still are needed from the Planning Board; those could come as soon as Jan. 16.
Also, the Zoning Board of Appeals has about 40 variances for the project that it must vote on. That board had been waiting for Thursday's environmental approval to proceed. The Zoning Board's next session is Jan. 11.
However, incoming Planning Board Chairman Richard Forsey said that although Wal-Mart approvals will be on its agenda next month, starting with a work session Jan. 9, action is not certain. "There's a lot of things we need to cover," he said.
Outgoing Chairman Lester J. Robinson Jr., stepping down after 30 years on the board, said he wished the project had been done before his retirement.
"I'd really like to see the project finished. I hope it works out so everybody likes it. This is the biggest thing that's ever happened in the town as regards one single project," he said.
Thursday's session marked the completion of the environmental impact statement required by state law. The Planning Board decided that the changes it sought in the plan were sufficient to mitigate the impact on nearby residents "to the maximum extent practicable."
"It wouldn't surprise me if there were legal action," said Margaret "Micki" Magno of Badger Drive, a leader of Citizens for Smart Growth, which has opposed the project. "I'm expecting the Zoning Board to do its job, and then nothing else needs to happen."
Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman said the Zoning Board need not necessarily approve each and every variance for the project to be built.
"It depends on the variance," he said.
In some cases, such as the number of parking spaces, the plan could probably be altered to solve the problem, Seaman said.
Town Planner Andrew C. Reilly said several of the variances are created by the subdivision of the mall property. Wal-Mart is acquiring most of the mall from General Growth Properties. It intends to demolish all of the mall except the Bon-Ton store, which will continue to be leased from General Growth and would share a parking lot with Wal-Mart.
The supercenter will include a full-size supermarket as well as a regular Wal-Mart discount store. General Growth will take over the existing Wal-Mart a quarter-mile to the south and try to find a new tenant.
The Planning Board approved "findings" that declared that the problems caused by the project had been mitigated.
For example, the store will have a 128-foot setback from the Badger Drive backyards on the east side of the property. An 8-foot-high block wall and a 6-foot-deep retention pond for water runoff, guarded by a berm and a chain-link fence at least 4 feet high, will separate the store from the residences.
The wall will extend around the eastern and northern borders of the mall site, and a landscaped berm will block the southern view from Shimer Drive.
There will be two entrances to the mall from Shimer Drive, one at the existing traffic signal at Snyder Drive, the other to the south. The latter will allow entrance only by cars turning right, and only right turns will be allowed for those leaving.
Dumpsters will be barred behind Wal-Mart, although not at Bon-Ton. A recycling center will be inside the front of the Wal-Mart, and trash compacters and storage of bales and pallets will be screened by a wall.
Trucks will be allowed to make deliveries only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and Wal-Mart will not allow the trucks to idle for more than three minutes at a time.
Sidewalks will be built at Wal-Mart's expense down Shimer Drive and Locust Street, although the town will have to maintain those not on the mall property. The amount of money Wal-Mart will have to place in an escrow fund to pay for that was not specified.