by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Town of Niagara Town Board on Tuesday voted to begin the SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) process and take all necessary steps to have lead agency status on the planned expansion of Fashion Outlets mall.
"We feel we are the most interested because the property is in our town," said Town Supervisor Steve Richards. Taking lead agency status would ensure the town is kept informed and has some control over what happens with the expansion, he said.
Councilman Danny Sklarski commented that the town taking lead agency status is extremely important, because the $71 million expansion project will affect "not only our town, but Niagara County as a whole."
While the Town Board was meeting, in another room at Town Hall, representatives of mall owners Macerich Niagara LLC and mall officials and their architects and engineers were meeting with the town's Planning Board.
"They did an excellent presentation and answered quite a few questions," Planning Board Chairman Barbara Hathaway said.
She said her group gave approval of the preliminary site plan for the project and provided a list of suggestions that mall and company officials can consider before coming back to the Planning Board with more details.
The final site plan will have to be approved by both the town's Planning Board and Zoning Board before going to the Town Board.
The new retail space of about 175,000 square feet would be attached to the existing mall and use some of the former Sabre Park trailer park property, now owned by Macerich. The expansion plan also includes additional parking.
Macerich also is looking for a 15-year graduated property tax abatement plan from the town's Industrial Development Agency.
In other matters:
•The board approved a new hiring policy requiring all new town employees and volunteers providing services to the town recreation and youth programs to undergo background checks.
The board also delayed its vote on summer recreation staff until its next regular meeting on April 16, by which time the new background checks should be completed.
The change was made in the wake of news that a state audit in Amherst showed that town did not have a written policy on the matter.
•The board scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. April 16 on the proposed amendment to the town's zoning code affecting the commercial business district. Richards said the current code was established about 40 years ago and is antiquated.
•The board approved the hiring of a new part-time police officer, Victor C. Muto. Muto, a Lewiston resident, previously worked for the Niagara Falls Police Department before being hired to work with the New York State Courts office in Niagara Falls.
The board also thanked part-time police officer John L. Marcyan for his service as they accepted his resignation due to other professional commitments.
•The board approved the request of Joe Cecconi's Chrysler Complex at 2380 Military Road to place temporary storage trailers and tents on its grounds during renovation and remodeling at its facility. The board also OK'd the request of Mark DeLorenzo, 7800 Porter Road, for a special use permit for vehicle repairs and sales.
•The board approved several resolutions from Police Chief James Suitor for budgeted new computer, lighting and emergency equipment for the town's new police vehicle fleet.
•The board approved the request of the Niagara County Social Services Department to hold its annual Kidz-n-Kites Day on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Veterans Memorial Park.
•The board authorized Highway Superintendent Robert E. Herman and three highway employees to attend a paving school at the Road Institute in Chambersburg, Pa., from May 21 to 24, at a cost not to exceed $4,500. Approval also was given for Suitor to attend the Whelen OEM factory training for police emergency equipment being held this week in Chester, Conn.