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Developer alters plans for controversial Town of Niagara project

TOWN OF NIAGARA – Some significant changes to the site plan of a controversial retail and restaurant development were brought to the Town Board this week.

Norm Gardner, the town engineer from Clarke Patterson Lee, told the members of the board Thursday night that Benderson Development Co. lost its anchor tenant for a big-box store at Military Place and although it will continue to look for a replacement, that building will not be constructed.

Also, Benderson will not be putting in a planned strip plaza at the site, which is across Military Road from the Fashion Outlets of Niagara USA, he said.

Gardner said the changes mean Benderson won’t have to put in a retention pond for drainage, cut down any more trees, or surround part of the property with a berm and fence.

Before the plan was approved in May, dozens of neighbors, mostly from Effie Drive and Ziblut Court, complained that the development would lower property values and destroy the quiet atmosphere of their neighborhood. Most of the protests involved the loss of trees and the presence of stores outside their backyards.

All that is left of the plan for the property that was once occupied by John’s Flaming Hearth Restaurant is a Longhorne Steakhouse near the road frontage of the site, and a Five Guys Burgers and Fries and a TCBY in the building of a former Perkins Restaurant, it was noted.

Councilman Rob Clark, who had voted to approve the plan, said the board should not be expected to accept any major changes and Benderson needed to continue on with the original plan.

“It’s not our fault they lost their tenant,” he commented.

Councilman Danny Sklarski, who voted against the site plan three months ago, said the changes will impact residents because the berms, fencing and trees that acted as barriers around part of the property line would no longer exist. Councilman Charles Teixeira said without the barriers, residents would now have full view of the site.

Gardner said Benderson now wants the board to approve a change in the elevation near the restaurant by allowing the site to be lowered two feet. The drop would force drainage water to run toward Military Road instead of toward the back of the property where the pond was to be dug.

The change in elevation is expected to be on the agenda for the board’s Tuesday meeting.

At one point during the discussion, as the councilmen were complaining about the possibility of being forced to hold more hearings on the site plan, they were scolded by Deputy Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso.

“This is what you are elected to do, and you are residents,” she told the council. “This is what your job is.”