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Wal-Mart site work worries residents

Wal-Mart has begun setting the stage for its arrival at the intersection of Transit Road and William Street in Lancaster, clearing the land and putting in erosion-control fencing.

The site-prep work, started last week, does not sit well with anti-Wal-Mart residents who packed the Lancaster Town Board meeting Monday night with concerns that the work done already has disturbed wetlands and harmed adjacent residential properties.

Wal-Mart project engineer William Szawranskyj admitted that work crews wrongly mowed down trees and inserted protective silt fencing in a natural area near residential homes that was supposed to be left alone.

Roughly 30 local residents attended the meeting and Lee Chowaniec, vice president of Citizens Against Retail Sprawl, spoke on the behalf of most.

"These angered constituents, they all came because they're scared," Chowaniec said.

Town inspector Jeff Simme and Szawranskyj acknowledged that silt fencing was installed near the boundaries of residential properties even though that fencing was supposed to be put in 60 feet away from the properties to give residents a natural buffer against the 300,000-square-foot development.

Chowaniec said such actions inspire more distrust of Wal-Mart.

"That's very offensive to the people who live here," he said, adding that the buffered area also included wetlands that were wrongly disturbed.

Szawranskyj assured the board and residents that the only work being done is preliminary site-prep work that involves some clearing, grading and erosion control, as well as water and drainage management.

He said no bids have gone out for main building construction.

Szawranskyj also said work crews would put in another silt fence 60 feet away from residents' property, then reseed and replant parts of the buffer area that were destroyed. They would eventually remove the initial fence that was mistakenly installed, he said.

Chowaniec said residents want a 10-foot fence behind the Wal-Mart development, instead of a 5-foot berm. He also said residents want assurances the store going in is not going to be a Wal-Mart Supercenter with late-night hours.

In other news, the board:

Approved the creation of a drug court program in association with the Town Justice Court, aimed at the rehabilitation of first-time drug offenders. The board approved $2,000 for a laptop computer and accessories to assist in the program's creation.

Mark Montour, the resolution sponsor, said he expects the program to begin within the next two months after those involved receive proper training.

"In most crimes, the underlying factor is drugs and alcohol," Montour said.

Approved a $2,500 grant to Landmark Society of Niagara help restore the Warren Hull House, considered the oldest masonry stone structure in Erie County.

Approved Grantmakers Advantage in Buffalo as the manager of a $1 million grant for the Heritage Trail in Lancaster. The 6.6-mile paved trail would include both town roadways and abandoned rail corridors. The head of Grantmakers Advantage will receive $70 an hour, up to $36,575 plus expenses as manager. The position is covered by the grant.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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