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Developer scrubs driveway plan at Transit Road plaza

After sustained opposition from Clarence residents, Benderson Development has given up on a plan to build a driveway connecting a shopping plaza with a bordering road.

Benderson last week informed the town it is withdrawing its pending application to add an access road at Eastgate Plaza, at Transit and Greiner roads, which includes a Walmart and a BJ's Wholesale Club. The Planning Board, after numerous appearances by the developer since December, recently informed Benderson it could move forward with a draft environmental impact statement.

Benderson gave the town no reason for its withdrawal, said Brad Packard, Clarence's assistant director of community development. Eric Recoon, vice president of Benderson development, did not respond to repeated messages.

The developer had hoped to add the driveway connecting to Greiner Road to decrease traffic on Transit. Recoon said at the Dec. 8 Planning Board meeting that drivers traveling from the east often have to take a left turn on busy Transit Road and another left to get into the plaza.

At the Dec. 8 and Jan. 26 Planning Board meetings, Recoon cited support for the project from the county, town and local fire departments. He said the developer was approached by the town five years ago about the need for the driveway.

Those sentiments were countered by residents living on Greiner, on nearby Greenhurst Road and other subdivisions, who said the proposed right-turn-only exit onto Greiner would drastically increase traffic on their winding, connected side streets.

"It's a safety issue, it's a traffic issue, it's a noise issue," said Greenhurst Road resident Karen Okonow-ski-Dunlap. "We're really nervous about the amount of traffic that would be exiting out of the plaza, what kind of traffic would be going in and out of the plaza, on top of the increased traffic that already travels up Greiner."

Starting in the fall, Okonowski-Dunlap began talking with her neighbors, circulating petitions and attending Planning Board meetings to speak about the project. Between 30 and 50 residents have regularly attended Planning Board meetings in the past few months. While Recoon said a "silent majority" was in favor of the project, Planning Board Chairman Al Schultz said at the Jan. 26 meeting that 40 people approached or wrote to the board in opposition, and only three favored it.

Okonowski-Dunlap said many drivers, looking for a shortcut to Transit off Greiner, cut down Greenhurst. When they realize Greenhurst doesn't extend to Transit, they speed away, Okonowski-Dunlap said.

David Beckinghausen, a Greiner Road resident, said at the December meeting that he has difficulty getting out of his driveway because of traffic and that the proposed driveway would have increased that. He said drivers from Amherst would cut across Transit and turn right into the plaza on the new driveway.

Others raised the issue of foot traffic at that area, stating that a turning lane into the new driveway would leave limited space for pedestrians. There are no sidewalks on Greiner near Transit. Benderson's proposal included sidewalks, Packard said.

e-mail: cspecht@buffnews.com

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