By Joshua Maloni
A national fast-food restaurant in the Village of Lewiston now seems like an inevitability.
On Monday, the Planning Board voiced support of Emery Simon's idea to build a 3,240-square-foot fast-food restaurant at 860-870 Center St. His vacant property is just west of the A-Plus minimart.
Simon and Lewiston architect James D. Fittante of Fittante Architecture P.C. presented the board with a revised version of a plan first floated in February. The original proposal showed the restaurant facing the gas station and extending toward the back of Simon's lot, which overlooks a steep drop down to Onondaga Street. The parking lot had two Center Street entrance-exit points.
The Planning Board was not in favor of that blueprint. Members expressed concern about cars backing out onto the village's roadway at a point where two lanes become one. Moreover, they feared delivery trucks would park in front of the eatery.
"The primary thing is that (Simon) put (the restaurant) against Center Street (parallel) rather than perpendicular," Chairman Norm Machelor said of the new plan. "That did two things. First of all, it got him off the fill slope in the back, where the buildings might've been. That was something we were always concerned about, whether he was going to go back that way.
"The second thing is, he had two entrances and two exits on Center. He's made that now one; in and out."
Moreover, "The one suggestion made out there was that maybe we would make this a right-turn-only coming out," Fittante said.
"Oh, that would be good," Machelor said. He later called the restriction an "excellent idea."
Restaurant patrons could enter the property and a drive-thru via Center Street or by using a new roadway Simon intends to build behind the gas station leading to North Ninth Street.
"The next thing is, he's able to bring his supply trucks and his Dumpster straight up Ninth Street - right to the back," Machelor said. "He isn't going to have a waiting line on Center."
Simon heads Simon Construction Co. He owns the Lewiston Stone House and co-owns the Lewiston Event Center.
"Originally, we were going to build a car wash there," Simon said. "Unfortunately, due to a chain of events, I have too much money into the land invested now. I need to bring something in that's going to generate a lot of revenue. And the fast-food chains are high-revenue business.
"The nice thing about this plan - this location - is you're within 200 feet of a traffic light. You have five lanes - you have two lanes each way, and then you have a turning lane. You have parking on the other side of the street. You have the gas station right next to it, so they kind of feed off of each other - this synergy that goes on there.
"It's just a good location for that."
"All the architectural features will reflect the village," Fittante said.
"As soon as we got approval for it, we would (be) looking for a tenant right away," Simon said.
He indicated discussions are underway with national fast-food companies.
Simon's restaurant is intended to have a front patio facing Center Street, and about 30 parking spaces for patrons.
"They haven't asked for one variance," Machelor said. He added, "It's pretty hard to say, 'Gee, I don't think we can do that.' "
"If they do all the requirements, and we OK the design on the building, he can put the shovel in the ground," Planning Board member Anne Welch said.
Fittante said lot lights would be kept away from Onondaga Street residents.
"He's told us that the lighting would be facing away from those peoples' houses, so that's good," Machelor said. "And I want him to put a lot of foliage in there."
"We're after him to make sure we like the landscaping in the back," he said. "I know one of the trustees is interested in making sure that's got some kind of a retaining wall or something."
"He's got a plan to terrace it back there (with trees)," Machelor added. "So maybe he'll have a four-foot wall and then a terrace and then another wall."
Simon's idea was labeled "conceptual." The Planning Board expects to receive his first official submittal in April.
Final approval rests with the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees.
One member already endorsed the project.
"I think this is the best plan of anything that's ever going to go in there," Vic Eydt said.
"I like that much better than his other plan," Welch said.
"And we also like it where it is on (Center Street)," Machelor said. "It's nicer to be down on Ninth Street than it is to be down on Fourth or Third or Fifth or Sixth."
"I think it's a good plan," Planning Board member Joshua Krupp said. "The only thing, a little bit, that worries me is the slope in the back. And then, especially in the winter, if you make that right to come up Ninth, it's going to be tough to get up that hill."
Right now, the Village of Lewiston has a Subway Restaurant located inside the Gulf gas station. A small Tim Hortons kiosk exists inside the Tops Express. Other eateries could be considered "fast food," but not one is a national chain.
McDonald's pulled out of the historic Frontier House in 2004. Village officials have heard the corporation is interested in returning.
Ellicott Development purchased 756, 784-790 Center St., the former site of Grandpaws Pet Emporium and The Country Doctor, in 2012. Late last year, CEO William Paladino reaffirmed his intention to build a plaza in that location, and said McDonald's could be an anchor tenant.
Pictured is the Center Street location where Emery Simon intends to build a fast-food restaurant.
The Planning Board has asked resident Claudia Marasco to join its ranks.
Machelor released the following statement:
"The Village of Lewiston Historic Preservation/Planning Commission voted Monday, March 9, 2015, to recommend Ms. Claudia Marasco ... for the position as alternate member of the Historic Preservation/Planning Commission. This recommendation will be forwarded to the village mayor and the Board of Trustees.
"Ms. Marasco is a resident of the village and has a long history of community involvement. She is a retired teacher and a village businesswoman. The Planning Board feels she will be an excellent addition to our board as an alternate member who will stay abreast of the projects and issues before the board, and to be able to vote as necessary when needed for a quorum in the absence of any regular member."
Machelor said the Village Board wanted an alternate to ensure five voting members - or at least a quorum. The Planning Board regularly meets with four members present.
The press release added, "The village code is quite explicit regarding the requirements to serve. Article II, Section 15-17, of the code states, in part, 'The Village Planning Commission shall consist of five members, who shall be residents of the village, to be appointed by the mayor, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees.' There are no technical or educational requirements necessary."
Machelor encouraged residents interested in applying for a position to submit an application to Village of Lewiston Clerk/Treasurer Amy Salada at the Red Brick Municipal Building, 145 N. Fourth St.
Fairchild Place plan tabled
Fairchild Place owner James Jerge and architect David Giusiana did not attend the Planning Board meeting. Machelor had planned to hold an informal public hearing on their recent proposal to tear down the former Fairchild Manor nursing home and replace it with an apartment complex and stand-alone housing units.