Resolution, study point to Seneca Mall project
Though not much other detail was offered at Monday night’s Town Board meeting, the board unanimously approved a feasibility study to be performed regarding the proposed development of the former Seneca Mall site at a cost not to exceed $30,000.
The mall was built in 1969 at the corner of Ridge Road and Slade Avenue, and its end as a retailer was spelled in 1989 with the opening of the Walden Galleria. In 1994, the mall’s owners, The Pyramid Company, demolished it and put The Shops in its place. The only existing occupants are Tops Markets and Kmart.
In a separate move, the board added two items to the agenda with regard to a grant application for the request of a strategic development plan in the town. The first item was the approval of the resolution itself, and the second was a negative declaration on the State Environmental Quality Review — meaning no adverse impact on the environment — which is necessary in order to apply for the grant through the Empire State Development Corporation.
The resolution calls for more collaboration in regard to economic development in town and states that there is a lack of it when it comes to deciding what to do with vacant lots. The goal of the plan is to increase the viability of existing town businesses, as well as encouraging new ones. It also calls for seeing what prevents new development in town.
The grant amount is $50,000, of which the town will match half, according to the resolution.
After both resolutions were read, Councilman Eugene P. Hart asked whether or not the action was related to the feasibility study.
“It could be,” responded Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan.
But Town Engineer Rick B. Henry III said the plan will apply townwide.
“It’s not exclusive to the Seneca Mall site,” said Meegan, who noted that the industrial park, the state school project, the former Seneca Mall site and the old Twin Fair site are just some of the areas in town for which the plan would be used.
Any further project would have to undergo its own SEQR,” said Town Attorney Shawn P. Martin. “This is just the town’s study for its own analysis.”
Hart said he had just learned of this resolution the day of the vote. Henry said it all came together “pretty quick.” He said the town was required to have the grant application submitted by Aug. 12, hence the need for immediate action.
“It seems very cryptic when you read it,” said Hart. “People will wonder what’s going on.”
Meegan said she realized that, but they can’t “spill the beans.”
Hart also told the public that it is the intent of the board to rezone the former Seneca Mall site from industrial to commercial, as per the owner’s request. He said he could not offer much information but did say the proposed development would be a “game-changer” for the town.
Councilman John M. Rusinski said a delicate balance must be struck between the needs of the taxpayers and the needs of the developer. Both he and Hart said the feasibility study is being done in order to protect the interests of the taxpayers.
“Economic development is important to the town,” Rusinski said. “This project is a good thing.”