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Orchard Park board approves plan for Mills Distributing expansion

A warehouse expansion got a green light and a senior citizens apartment project took a step forward Wednesday in Orchard Park.

The Town Board approved a building permit for an addition at J. Mills Distributing, a food wholesaler owned by County Legislator John J. Mills.

The company plans a 7,000-square-foot addition to its warehouse at 3360 North Benzing Road, near Quaker Crossing.

The $1 million-plus expansion will allow the company to add 20 jobs to its current 47 over the next few years, said Mills, the Republican legislator for the 13th District.

The project "will keep Mills Distributing in the Town of Orchard Park, where we really want to be," he said.

The addition will house a wall-to-wall refrigerated area for storing perishable food.

The distribution business covers upstate New York as far east as Syracuse, with sales close to $30 million a year to supermarkets and convenience stores.

The company did not seek a tax abatement deal from the Industrial Development Agency, Mills said. However, he said, it expects to receive a lesser discount on taxes from the town that would expire after five years.

The Town Board approved the permit unanimously, with limits on outside lighting and other stipulations.

Also moving forward was a proposed 90-unit senior citizens apartment complex on Weiss Avenue, off Route 240/Orchard Park Road.

The board approved rezoning the 23-acre site to senior residential from residential -- with the stipulation that the developer pay for a peer review to confirm that the boggy area won't become more flood-prone. The board also waived a full-scale environmental impact review.

"We're telling residents this won't impact them any worse -- we're having a third party confirm that," Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy said.

The plan for the low-lying area bordered by a creek includes a retention pond and a high percentage of green space to limit runoff.

The rezoning was the subject of a contentious public hearing in September, when residents spoke for and against the development.

Developer Calamar Senior Services still faces a site review by the town Planning Board. However, the rezoning has already drawn scrutiny to details of the site plan, which has been modified during the rezoning process.

Ken Franasiak, Calamar president and chief executive, said the company hopes to begin construction this season. The nonsubsidized housing is aimed at independent senior citizens with incomes of $25,000 to $60,000.

The company is funding the project through its reserves, he said, so financing won't be affected by a virtual shut-off of bank lending.

Murphy and Council members Mark Dietrick, David Kaczor and Nancy W. Ackerman voted for the zoning change, giving it a super-majority that would be necessary to overcome a petition drive against the change by property owners adjacent to the site. Councilman Edward J. Graber Jr. abstained because of a family connection to the seller of the property.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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