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Tim Hortons withdraws rezoning request

Tim Hortons has withdrawn its controversial application to build a drive-through restaurant near Niagara County Community College.

The restaurant chain had asked the Lewiston Town Board for a rezoning that would have permitted a drive-through on the southwest corner of Saunders Settlement and Town Line roads, diagonally across the intersection from NCCC.

Reacting to resistance from some Sanborn residents, Town Board members set up two public meetings in the Sanborn Fire Company hall to discuss the Tim Hortons request along with a much more ambitious plan to adopt a new set of zoning rules for the entire town.

About 60 people attended Wednesday evening's meeting, at which board members announced that the rezoning request for Tim Hortons had been withdrawn. The meeting continued, however, with a general discussion of a modernized, simplified set of townwide zoning rules recommended by a professional consultant.

The consultant, Andrew C. Reilly, an engineer with the Wendel companies of Amherst, said Tim Hortons has adopted a more modern drive-through concept that requires more space and that the new design probably would not fit into the property across from the NCCC campus.

Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter asked residents at the meeting to submit written comments to the Town Board by May 24 so board members may begin discussing the consultant's recommendations. "The board has a difficult task," he said, "and we need your help to move ahead."

At least one public hearing and other legal requirements must be met before a revised zoning ordinance can be adopted, Reilly said, and final action probably is some months away.

"The Town Board has a very difficult job in balancing the interests of businesses and residential property owners," the consultant said.

Some business owners have complained that any change to residential zoning would devalue the investment in their property because it no longer could be used for commercial development. On the other hand, some residents insisted that a more residential character should be assured for the Sanborn area.

Reilly suggested a compromise in which a new Traditional Neighborhood Development District would be created to permit mixed-use, hamlet-style development with small businesses on the ground floor and offices or apartments on the second floor.

Regarding the proposed townwide rezoning recommendations, the consultant said, "most people will not be directly affected." Most existing properties would be "grandfathered in," and would not have to make any changes, but new construction would be subject to new rules.

In addition, the rules would not apply to large sections of the town, such as property owned by the New York Power Authority, the Tuscarora Indian Nation and existing landfills.

Among the recommendations is a suggestion that all eight of the town's present residential zoning districts be combined into just one, or possibly two, districts. Another suggestion is the creation of a Rural Residential Transition District as a transition between very rural areas and more suburban neighborhoods.