BATAVIA — A Batavia business owner maintains his opposition to a building project to construct two buildings, each including a restaurant, in the parking lot of the vacant Kmart building at Lewiston and Park roads.
Jerry Arena, owner of Jerry Arena’s Pizzeria, 8360 Lewiston Rd., responded to a comment town Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski made during the board’s meeting Tuesday, before it approved a special use variance request by developer Benderson Development, LLC, for drive-thrus for both restaurants. One of the buildings would also include a coffee shop.
Arena was the only speaker at an April 19 public hearing the Planning Board held on the project.
“We had a public hearing at our last meeting regarding the request for a special use permit to put in the drive-thru windows at both restaurants — one in each. We only had one speaker come. He was against it, but he wasn’t totally against and I think he’s come around a little bit, right, Steve?” Jasinski asked Town Engineer Steve Mountain Tuesday at the meeting. She asked Mountain whether he had talked to Arena and Mountain said Building Inspector Daniel Lang had.
“He’s (Arena) not here tonight, so I’m assuming that he’s OK with it (the project), so we really don’t have any opposition,” Jasinski said Tuesday. The Planning Board then voted to approve a special use permit for the drive-thrus and also approved the site plan for the project.
Arena told The Daily News since that meeting that he was not informed, nor was he aware, that the board would be taking action on the proposed project Tuesday. He also rejected Jasinski’s assumption he was OK with the Kmart parking lot construction project.
“My position has not changed. I am 100% against this project and I am by far not the only one opposed,” he wrote. “My concerns are for the safety of the pedestrians, motorists and handicapped citizens who travel this area. The traffic flow congestions, no sidewalks and the handicapped accessibility in this commercial district is an issue. As a constituent, I am deeply disappointed in the town of Batavia misrepresenting my views and concerns on this issue.”
Lang on Friday said he met with Jerry Arena within the last week at the lot Arena owns next to his pizzeria.
“From my understanding, he’s still opposed to the project going there. I informed him (Arena) of what our recommendations were to be for the Planning Board as far as staff recommendations.
Lang said the staff recommendation was if anything were to go into the existing Kmart structure another traffic study would have to be completed. He said the second recommendation was If there is ever a sidewalk district formulated, that the developer shall comply with the sidewalk district.
Lang said he talked to Arena at the lot Arena owns next to his business.
“I had phone conversations with him throughout the process. Even today (Friday) he called me and I called him back,” Lang said.
On Friday, Arena said he can’t get past Benderson’s conclusion that the project is a significant improvement to an existing, vacant parcel of land when the former Kmart building is there and is for sale.
“I own commercial property on Park Road and I own commercial property here (on Lewiston Road). I can’t do what they’re doing,” he said. “My land’s been sitting vacant on Park Road for I don’t know how long. I can’t put a building in front of it or right next to it.”
Arena predicts a line of vehicles in front of the pizzeria when the Kmart parking lot project goes in.
“It affects my property. There’s no two ways about it,” he said.
Arena said Lang called him and told him he had the traffic study pertaining to the project.
“I agreed to meet with him. He came out. He gave me a copy of the traffic study, which to no surprise (found), ‘Oh, there’s no impact,’” Arena said.
The pizzeria owner said, “In no way, shape or form, did I ever say to Dan Lang or anyone from the town that I modified my position,” he said Friday. “If I knew there was a meeting, you know darn well I’d be at the meeting. To pass it because I wasn’t there and assume … I’m fine with it? No, I’m not fine with it. Ir they pass it, I’m still not going to be fine with it.”