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April 21, 2021 - 1:00pm

The Town of Batavia Planning Board will be adding a “public comments” segment to its meetings, which generally are scheduled for the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.

In response to Planning Board Member Don Partridge’s inquiry into the procedure for conducting an annual review of Area 51 Motocross, a businesses that has been granted a special use permit, the board Tuesday night agreed to give residents time at the beginning of each meeting to bring up pertinent issues.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said he spoke with the town’s attorney and supervisor, and both men recommended that the planning board not schedule a public hearing for special use permit reviews, but to offer “an open period for any comments, questions or concerns.”

Lang said that yearly reviews of operations with special use permits are conducted along with the fire inspection of the facility. He then suggested to Chair Kathleen Jasinski to “get on your agenda as open for public comments on every agenda.”

Jasinski said she wouldn’t want to see 10 people unannounced at every meeting, but the board didn’t think there would be that many and felt it important to give a forum for town residents as all meetings are open to the public.

It was noted that the Batavia Town Board (as well as the Batavia City Council) includes a public comments period at their meetings.

Planning Board Member Paul Marchese suggested a five-minute public comments section at the start of their meetings.

“It’s really not going to be significantly taxing to any of us and we limit it to five minutes,” he said. “I think we really want to be as transparent as we can in these wonderful times that we live in. To me, I feel it is part of our duty to listen to the people that we represent.”

In other action, the planning board:

  • Tabled a site plan review and special use permit request by Batavia Solar LLC, which is seeking to install a ground-mounted solar system for the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. on R. Stephen Hawley Drive, across from Genesee Community College.

The board declared itself as the lead agency for the project and also approved a conditional negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review. Conditions on the SEQR center upon proper screening of the system from a neighboring couple’s home and from the roadway.

Planners advised Jim Taravella, representing LaBella Associates, to provide visualizations of the layout, showing five- and 10-year projections of the site based on screening growth, and asked the consulting firm to limit the number of utility poles.

  • Scheduled a public hearing for May 4 in connection with a special use permit referral from COR Development to add a drive-thru to an existing commercial building at 4222 Veterans Memorial Drive. The space, formerly used by Metro Mattress, will be the site of a new Chipotle restaurant.
  • Learned that on May 17, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals will consider an area variance request by Dickinson’s Auto, 4028 W. Main Street Road, as part of a plan to construct a new truck storage building.
December 15, 2020 - 12:50pm

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Everything is coming together at the right time for the City of Batavia to embark on an ambitious revival of the City Centre Mall and surrounding area, according to Ed Flynn, director of planning for the consulting firm of LaBella Associates in Rochester.

“We think the stars are aligned at this point,” said Flynn, during a presentation at Monday night’s City Council meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room. “We’ve got the agreement in place, executed for the City Centre. We’ve got the $1 million in DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. And we’ve got a ton of other projects that are either in the pipeline or in the works downtown that are going to complement each other as they happen.”

Flynn, a Batavian, said LaBella Associates is the lead consultant for the state funded DRI project, working in conjunction with Underberg & Kessler LLP (legal) and Archer (graphic design).

An advisory committee also played a key role in pinpointing how the city will spend the $1 million, along with looking “at other things besides the mall property, and the mall building itself,” Flynn said.

Members of the advisory committee are Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, Public Works Director Matt Worth (recently retired), Water/Wastewater Superintendent Bill Davis, Batavia Development Corporation Director Andrew Maguire, City Council Member Jeremy Karas, Paul Gister of National Grid, Business Improvement District Director Beth Kemp, and Genesee County Economic Development Center President Steve Hyde.

The group’s proposal centered on creating a comprehensive package of information about the mall and the city – “getting that information into one place,” Flynn said – along with defining mall concourse improvements, providing cost estimates, exploring additional funding, reaching out to the public and stakeholders, preparing for future development and satisfying agreements with owners of businesses in the mall.

“We have been working to not only determine the best ways to use the resources of the $1 million DRI grant at City Centre, but also future components of what the interior of our City Centre Mall and the entire campus would look like,” Tabelski said.

Key points of Flynn’s presentation included a plan for concourse renovations and options for mall merchants to enhance the façades of their businesses.

It also brought to light a theoretical component outside of the scope of the DRI -- a three-story, 70,000-square-foot residential/commercial building on the east side of the mall at the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street, adjacent to where the proposed new police headquarters would go.

“That is conceptual based on the market,” Flynn said, adding that developers have inquired about opportunities for housing and, possibly, commercial ventures. “It’s a vision of what could work and what is deemed by the public as acceptable.”

Flynn said the DRI grant would just about cover the cost of concourse work, which would consist of removing and replacing the floor tile (which currently doesn’t match); painting walls, columns and crossbeams; installing low-level lighting, and removing and replacing the silo entryways “that never have been very attractive or functional.”

He noted that the city already has invested about $600,000 to repair the roof – a longtime problem, with that investment completing its DRI responsibility.

Private investment to upgrade individual storefronts (not a cost to the city) for mall business owners are optional, Flynn said, but incentives of up to 75 percent reimbursement may be available.

As far as Bank Street is concerned, Flynn said the mixed-use building has the potential to generate $19 million in private, new investment.

“Obviously, there would be a lot of tax revenue that would be created as part of that, but also with all of the new folks living downtown and some of the commercial activity – it would create a lot of vitality downtown and start to enclose Bank Street, which is pretty wide open right now,” Flynn said.

He also presented figures revealing that there will continue to be plenty of available parking – at least 590 spots -- even with the new building, when considering off-street parking lots and Alva Place and on-street parking.

“I think the takeaway from this is with the project, you’ll be able to satisfy both the DRI and the mall agreement objectives; also, be able to potentially develop some lots … at the City Centre and create some tax revenue … and also that you have enough funding to actually do what you need to do at the mall with the DRI funding,” he said.

At that point, Tabelski reminded Council members that one portion of the roof has yet to be completed – near Dan’s Tire Service – and bids for that work will go out this spring. That piece is part of the agreement between the city and mall merchants, she said.

Council Member John Canale asked about the Downtown Theatre 56 plan to complete its façade work with the DRI money it obtained, but Tabelski said the cost of all the interior work left no money for the outside renovations.

“Our intent is to look at a Main Street grant to complete that façade work,” she said.

In a related development, Council approved a resolution to apply, through the Batavia Development Corporation, for a New York Main Street grant for up to $500,000 to assist Theatre 56 with the completion of its project.

In a memo to City Council, Maguire outlined the BDC’s successful track record of obtaining Main Street, Anchor and Building Improvement Fund grants, and noted that matching funds for the Theatre 56 project would include money from the Batavia Players and its DRI.

Maguire, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian about the return to the city in property and sales taxes, said he couldn’t provide an exact figure, but would research it and get back to the board.

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Renderings at top of the City Centre Mall entryways and concourse and rendering at bottom of a conceptual building on the Bank Street corridor, courtesy of LaBella Associates and the City of Batavia.

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