Trustees not expected to vote on project at Monday's meeting
By Joshua Maloni
The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing Monday to consider the State Environmental Quality Review for the proposed "Paladino plaza." The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. inside the Morgan Lewis Boardroom at the Red Brick Municipal Building, 145 N. Fourth St.
Ellicott Development CEO William Paladino has proposed building a $14 million mixed-use plaza with three primary buildings on 4.1 acres of property bordering Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets. To date, the Village of Lewiston Planning Commission has approved the project, and the developer received eight codebook variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In an email to NFP, Village of Lewiston Engineer Michael Marino, of Buffalo-based Nussbaumer & Clarke Inc., said he would explain the SEQR process at Monday's meeting.
Marino said there's been a coordinated SEQR review. Part one was completed by engineer R. Christopher Wood of Buffalo's Carmina Wood Morris PC on behalf of Ellicott Development. Once it was received, Marino sent it out to interested/involved parties, including the Niagara County Department of Health, the Niagara County Planning Board, the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Lewiston. Each party was given 30 days to provide comment.
Received comments were discussed at the July Village Board meeting. No entity had a problem of such significance that it would prevent the project from moving forward. Marino said all concerns have been or will be addressed.
This time around, the Village Board will publicly discuss part one of the SEQR, which they've previously received and had time to analyze.
Marino noted trustees are responsible for filling out part two of the SEQR based upon the information provided by Wood, coordinated review comments, and the municipality's collective understanding of the village.
"We'll spend time discussing part two of the SEQR to determine if there will be an environmental impact (no/small or moderate/large) in the various categories. At this point, the board would open the floor for public comment on the SEQR," Marino said.
Part three of the SEQR, Marino explained, is based upon information presented in part one, analysis in part two, and public comment. At this point, a "determination of significance" can be made.
"If there are any environmental impacts identified, mitigating measures will be presented in part three," Marino said. "It will be up to the board whether to act on part three Monday."
Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano said the Village Board has no intentions of voting for or against the project on Monday.
"We're not done yet," he said. "We still have other things that have to come to us yet. So, we're just doing the first process, is the SEQR, which ... we do on all the projects."
Collesano said board members are waiting to hear back from Lewiston No. 1 Volunteer Fire Co. as to the ability of fire trucks and personnel to navigate within the plaza - especially around designated island areas and up to the second floor of building No. 3; and from the Town of Lewiston and the village's Department of Public Works regarding sewer capacity.
"We still have more to go," Collesano said. "We're nowhere near ready yet."
He explained trustees need additional time to review, "All the intricate things that are very important to me, and I think to the rest of the board. As far as the design, the building, stuff like that, that's the last thing. I'm not concerned about that. I know a lot of people are, but that's - after you approve the process - if it gets to that point - then ... it goes back to the Planning Board for the design structure of what they want to see. Then it comes to us again.
"There's still a couple steps to go yet. We're not there."
Prior to a final vote, a public hearing will be held, thus allowing residents and business owners one more opportunity to weigh-in on the proposed project's merits.
If the plaza is approved, "additional work will need to be done by Ellicott to supply the necessary detailed construction drawings to the village for a building permit, and Ellicott will also need to file a notice of intent with DEC for stormwater management prior to construction," Marino said.
Ellicott Development's Village of Lewiston property was acquired for $1.4 million in November 2012. At that time, property tenants included The Country Doctor, Grandpaws Pet Emporium and Smith Brothers Pizza. A plaza proposal was first presented in August 2013.
In the most recent plan submission, the plaza's three buildings are as follows:
Building No. 1
•Building No. 1 and building No. 2 begin on Center Street and continue downhill toward Onondaga Street. Building No. 1, on the west (river side), is 6,230 gross square feet. It calls for two retail units and one restaurant unit - thought to be a national fast-food chain.
The building's two front units face Center Street. One, on the west side, is 200 G.S.F. of restaurant space with a drive-thru pickup window. The eatery has an additional 2,357 G.S.F. of lower level space. The other is 1,123 G.S.F. of retail.
The third unit, leading down into the plaza, has 2,550 G.S.F. of retail space.
•Building No. 2, also a two-story structure, is 10,800 G.S.F. divided equally into a 5,400-G.S.F. restaurant facing Center Street, and a 5,400-G.S.F. retail space heading down the hill.
Building No. 2
•Building No. 3, with its back facing Onondaga Street, is the largest edifice, at 33,988 G.S.F. The two-story building has 11,180 of street-level retail in the center, with an extra 3,784 G.S.F. of TBD space on the east side, facing North Eighth Street. There's also a 1,128-G.S.F. service corridor.
The second floor is reserved for 13 apartment units, eight of which will be two-bedroom.
Building No. 3
With a development of this magnitude, Collesano said, "I'm not rushing it. I want to take time. I want to make sure that everything is done right, and all the questions are answered properly."
He noted, "I've told both boards the same thing. I don't want you to drag your feet, but, at the other hand, I don't want you to push it through, either. I want you to take your time, and digest everything, and hear from the public."
"It's a big project for this little town," he added.
Collesano said he's aware the project has residents for it, and residents against it, and that the latter group has been far more vocal.
Of that particular collection of people, he said, "I can understand peoples' frustrations with various aspects of the project itself, and how it's been presented, and how they've gotten their answers. I understand all that."
However, "On the other hand, you can't stop free enterprise," Collesano said. "If they follow the rules, and the property's theirs - it's been sitting there for, what, 40 years? Fifty years? (It's) nothing. It's just grown wild - it's like a jungle down there.
"And it's the last large parcel in this village than can be developed. So, if we're going to do it, we want to do it right. We're going to make sure that all the 'I's' are dotted, the 'T's' are slashed. ... And then we'll make our decision."
Collesano said he and the other board members are unsure how the final vote will go down.
"I'm still weighing both ends, whether I'm for it or against it," he said. "I'm leaning for it only in one aspect, and that is to see progress, and see things move forward. But if I do that, I want to make sure that we retain what people want, and that is the character of our village - not to lose it. And the historical significance of what we have, I don't want to lose that either.
"There's a lot of things we're weighing."