MacSwan, Doktor discuss meeting with Zoran Cocov
By David Yarger
Monday night at the Town of Wheatfield Town Board meeting, Supervisor Don MacSwan and councilman Curt Doktor announced that the two had met with Summit Park Mall owner Zoran Cocov to discuss the future of the vacant property.
Several projects hadvebeen discussed prior to the meeting, including a sports bar and grill by Big Thunder Brewing, as well as a sports complex from Niagara International Sports and Entertainment.
The mall has been vacant since The Bon Ton closed its doors in late August. Prior to The Bon Ton, Sears closed less than a month earlier.
Nothing has come to fruition regarding the mall since the closings, other than the rumored proposals. Town Board members agree they don't want to see an empty mall.
In the past, MacSwan has said he doesn't want the complex to become a "ghost town," and he had high hopes for the mall's future.
Monday, the town scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. Dec. 17, to discuss a change in the zoning ordinance in the C-1 district. MacSwan said the change is an attempt to attract economic development in the town, and he noted the Summit Mall as one of the key sites.
After attending a seminar regarding the reuse of properties, MacSwan said, "What there suggestion was to me, was for the town to be a little more aggressive in trying to convert these stores into something ... for some other uses. Since I've started, we had some people interested ... at varying locations at the old Summit Mall. The down side was that it was limited to five employees. As the law is written now, in the C-1 district, it allows for assembly of materials, but not to exceed five employees. ... Companies that did come in here didn't wanna go through the hassle of having to change a zoning law, because for them it would make it very difficult.
"What this does is allows for the assembly of previously prepared materials. For example, we had a cosmetics company come to us ... but what they wanted to do, to avoid tariffs, it would come into this country, they would package their materials here in one of the stores of the Summit Park Mall and distribute from here. But they had 22 employees, and the fact that we were limiting them to five employees is really hurting the town.
"What this will do is allow for the assembly of previously prepared materials under special permit. The reason for that, is that if there's something that does come in that may be an issue - noise, odor, things like that can be addressed or stopped through a special permit process."
MacSwan said he addressed the zoning change with mall representatives and he said the reaction was good, because it opens up opportunities.
Doktor and MacSwan gave a hopeful announcement that the meeting went well between the two, Cocov and his representatives.
"Our objective for the meeting was to get them in and let them know that the town is interested in helping them as they're working on development of that property. Nobody wants to see it empty," Doktor said. "I would say it was a very productive meeting. They were very enthusiastic. I think there has been some delays over the past little bit ... but I think there's plenty of resolve there, and I do expect some things to start to happen."
MacSwan added that Neal Turvey is now a local representative. Turvey will be available for the town to contact in regards to Summit activities. MacSwan added that Cocov is trying to make things work at the site along Williams Road.
"I can assure you, that the owner of the mall, the people involved, are aggressively looking to making these changes. If this does happen, we'll be very fortunate in the Town of Wheatfield.
"One of the comments that the owner of the property made, was in fact 'I don't like to make announcements (or) promise things that aren't guaranteed.' So he said the reason you're not hearing about a lot of these things we've discussed this morning, is because, of course, funding is an issue - from a Canadian developer to get money over here.
"If these proposals do work out, it'll be great for the community. A lot of good things," MacSwan said.
In early February, the projects were tentatively slated to finish in "late 2018." At a Wheatfield Local Development Corporation meeting during the summer, the annual report was handed out, and in the 2018 outlook, it said, "The Big Thunder Brewing project will continue forward. We anticipate a closing at some point in 2018 with project completion being in 2019. Due to potential construction or other issues, it's hard to forecast the exact numbers at this time."