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Niagara County Planning Board approves controversial commercial project in Lewiston

WHEATFIELD – A controversial commercial project on Center Street in Lewiston, proposed by Ellicott Development of Buffalo, received approval from the Niagara County Planning Board on Monday.

The Village of Lewiston Zoning Board of Appeals already has granted variances for the project, but those were premature because the county board had not yet acted. The matter now returns to Lewiston for action by the Village Board and the planning and zoning boards.

The $14 million proposal calls for erecting three buildings on a 4.1-acre lot bounded by Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets.

The development would include two all-commercial buildings on the Center Street side, both with two stories. Sean W. Hopkins, attorney for Ellicott Development, said one would include a drive-thru window. A larger two-story building on the Onondaga Street side would include five or six boutique-style shops on the ground floor and 13 apartments on the second floor. The property features a very steep hill sloping downward from Center toward Onondaga a block to the north.

The project has been pending for four years. Hopkins said he hopes for action next month from the boards in the village.

“Bill would like nothing more than to commence construction in the very near future,” Hopkins said, referring to Ellicott Development CEO William A. Paladino.

Paladino said that because of the delays, all the anticipated tenants for the project have backed out. The building with a drive-thru was originally envisioned as a McDonald’s, and the building on the Onondaga side was supposed to be a drugstore. Now, new tenants will have to be recruited.

Hopkins said that village code requires 260 parking spaces for this size of development but that the plan includes 187. Norman R. Machelor, a county Planning Board member and chairman of the village Zoning Board of Appeals, said he suggested that Paladino obtain a parking variance.

“It doesn’t need a 75-car variance. It needs smaller buildings,” said Emery J. Simon, who owns property on the opposite side of Center Street. “If he took out one building, he wouldn’t need a variance. … He’s trying to build a monster on a postage stamp.”

Paladino said, “We are alleviating our parking concern. We don’t have a parking concern. All these parking spaces are below the road.”

As the debate continued, county Senior Planner Amy E. Fisk said the issues were entirely local. “There is no county or intercommunity impact from the project, and I would advise the board to vote that way,” Fisk said. The county board thus approved the proposal, with Machelor abstaining.

The board also approved a plan by St. Peter’s Catholic Church to build a parking lot behind the parish elementary school. The existing lot just to the west would be turned into a park and playground, primarily for the schoolchildren’s use but open to the public. Kristin L. Savard of Advanced Design Group said that the church already acquired and demolished a house on Onondaga and that the new parking will go on that lot. The only entrance will be on Onondaga, and the exit will be via a driveway leading to North Sixth Street.

Also for Lewiston, planners had no objections to the openings of temporary fenced patios at two Center Street restaurants, Carmelo’s Coat of Arms and Apple Granny.

In the Town of Niagara, the board approved a plan by Gordon J. Reger of East Aurora, who already owns the vacant former Sam’s Club store on Porter Road, to buy the vacant former Walmart store next door, constructing a structure connecting the two and turning them into a large warehouse. The boundary between the town and the City of Niagara Falls runs through the Sam’s Club building, creating additional red tape for the project.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com