Officials eagerly awaiting plaza construction
By Joshua Maloni
It took four years to review and then finally approve Ellicott Development's plan to build a plaza on 4.1 acres of land bordering Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets.
Trustees in the Village of Lewiston are hoping it won't take that long so see the development built and open to the public.
On Monday, trustees Vic Eydt, Dan Gibson, Nick Conde and Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said they were "disappointed" to learn Ellicott Development put forward what they called substantial changes to the plaza proposal.
Last week, company CEO William Paladino told the Planning Commission his company seeks to build a detention pond on the property's west side - a move that requires a re-subdivision - in lieu of an underground system that would've drained on the east side.
Also changing with the addition of a detention pond, but to a lesser degree, would be the shape and configuration of the southwest parking lot area.
"Every time they come back to us, it's a major thing," Eydt said following the municipality's monthly meeting.
"They are very significant changes," Gibson said.
"They're significant and deserve our review team to take a look at it," Sutherland said.
"It's a totally different review from what's there," Eydt said. "You're taking out all that underground (detention) and putting in something that's aboveground. It gives the whole plaza a whole different look. They had to change the parking. ... They're changing some of the flow. They're changing some of the setbacks. And they're adding more property to the plaza."
Conde, who previously served as village zoning officer, said he believes the leftover Center Street property west of the plaza needs more square-footage to be code-compliant.
"It looks to me that the lot upfront needs to be left bigger than what they're doing," he said.
The Planning Board unanimously approved Ellicott Development's re-subdivision request, not finding any problems with such action.
On Tuesday of this week, the Zoning Board of Appeals said the property changes, if enacted, would nullify eight previously granted variances.
At the Planning Board meeting, Vice Chairwoman Anne Welch said her board's vote would not annul the variances. She reiterated that point at Monday's Village Board meeting.
"There was a small revision as to the detention pond in that newer green area, and also they reconfigured the parking, which they have more parking now. So, with the square-footage that they have now, they are in more compliance," she said.
Village of Lewiston Projects Liaison W.E. "Skip" Hauth disagreed with Welch's assessment of the plaza revisions.
"The Ellicott project has a lot of new information that was submitted last Thursday - 13 new drawings and several hundred pages of documentation, including a stormwater pollution prevention plan and the engineer's report on those projects. Those are presently under review by our Lewiston projects team. ... I would not characterize the changes that they have made to the project as 'small,' " he said Monday. "I think they have significant impact. I believe that we are going to have to drill down more level of detail than what we've seen so far on the issues of how to manage the stormwater departure from the site."
Sutherland said, "We look forward to our project team's comments after review. May we request that, while you do your due diligence for our residents, that you also move the process along with some immediacy. Our residents and visitors alike need to see some progress, and I know you want to see some progress, as well."
He added, "We have to do it right for the residents, so that they're not threatened. We have to live with this as the years go on. We all want it to work."
Welch also said, "We're waiting for the engineers to work out the drainage (related to the detention area). We don't have that expertise, so we made (our approvals) contingent on their approval. Hopefully, they'll work that out and then it will go to the Village Board for approval.
"But we would like to see this project start soon."
Engineer Mike Marino, CEO of Nussbaumer & Clarke Engineers and Surveyors, said his team is examining several hundred pages and will then render a decision.
"All we're doing is reviewing it to make sure it's in conformance with the DEC stormwater manual," he said. "If all the calcs check out, I have no opinion. That's up to them. I just want to make sure it's designed (properly)."
Marino said he would review the detention area's size (volumewise), potential water quality and discharge point, as well as the village's sewer capacity.
He added, "Ponds exist on a lot of different developments."
At the Planning Board meeting, Paladino said, "We found the cost (of underground detention) to be too cost-prohibitive. It's over half-a-million-dollars just for underground detention. Now we're taking the same system throughout the whole parking lots - all the catch basins will still be the same, the drainage will still be drained through some bioremediation to clean it. And it will all come into this pond, or detention area, and then from there it will be piped into your system."
He also said his team intended to resume work on the plaza as soon as Marino is satisfied with the drainage plan.
Those plans could now be halted with the ZBA's opinion the variances have expired.
Gibson said, "Why didn't they do their due diligence at the beginning and say, 'This is going to cost this. This is going to cost this'?"
Eydt said, "To me, that's not doing your due diligence. They had to have some idea. I mean, these guys aren't first-timers doing this kind of stuff. That's the part that really disappoints me."
He said the multimillion-dollar plaza is a small project for Ellicott Development, a company with more than 5 million square feet of real estate across New York and Pennsylvania.
In an email to The Sentinel on Saturday, Paladino wrote, "I was very disappointed to hear Mr. Eydt's comments about not doing our due diligence. We did and Planning Board members know we did. I asked in the beginning and knew a pond was the way to go. We asked to find places to place on site or along Onondaga and they said 'No.'
"They didn't want one, so we tried it differently. The project would maybe have still been affordable the old way if we would have still had our original major anchor tenants, a pharmacy and McDonald's, who we lost because of the long, contentious planning process."
The Village Board approved the plaza site plan in November 2016.
Mayor Terry Collesano was excused from Monday's meeting.