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Lancaster village leaders oppose extending West Main Street

Some Lancaster residents want to extend West Main Street but the idea is hitting a dead-end with village leaders.

“The Village of Lancaster is not going to dump $3 million into a dream,” Trustee William C. Schroeder said. “To put a road in for the sake of putting a road in, I can’t just buy that. We’re back to Square One.”

In mid-March, some residents formed a Facebook community group “Rebuild Main Street in Downtown Lancaster, N.Y.” and urged the street be restored to a design similar to the 1960s when it was the heart of a thriving business district.

Mayor Paul M. Maute issued a statement last week, strongly opposing the West Main Street extension from Central Avenue to Aurora Street.

The mayor said he is opposed to “a dream” lacking a plan. Maute also said he would insist on backing from a proven developer before agreeing to approve an extension for West Main.

“If we put in a road to nowhere, and raise taxes, where would that get us?” Maute said during a village work session last week. “We’d look foolish.”

Two years ago, the village backed off a plan to extend the street after buying a strip of land that could be used to extend West Main. That extension was shelved because of cost and concern over future redevelopment mistakes.

Meanwhile, lack of developer interest and mounting bills prompted the Community Development Corp., the village’s development arm that owns the BOCES complex, to list the property for sale.

Still, there’s no sign that the village will change its mind any time soon.

“The village has more pressing needs. We’ve been trying to pay down other debt,” Schroeder said.

He also noted that if the road were extended, a future developer could decide it is an impediment, creating a new problem.

Trustee Dawn Robinson said she wants the village and development corporation to work together on defining a revitalization plan.

“We need a good blueprint from a developer,” she said, noting her own uncertainty about whether it would be good to extend West Main.

“I can’t justify spending one penny of taxpayer money, let alone $3 million.”

Schroeder, who said he initially felt the development corporation was taking “a shot” at the village on the Facebook site, now believes that wasn’t the agency’s intention.

Now, he said he wants to see the village and CDC work together.

“This isn’t an us-against-them,” Schroeder said.

But he said that the agency seems to function more as a “property manager” instead of honoring its mission of economic development.

CDC President James Allein said he doesn’t know who created the Facebook community group calling for the extension of West Main.

“Nobody on the Community Development Corp. board put that up. Someone does know who did it, but I have not asked who,” Allein said.

“I didn’t do it, but I agree with the premise of extending West Main through to Aurora. You look at it from Central Avenue, and it’s a dead-end street.”