TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Town Board agreed Tuesday to take lead agency status in the state environmental quality review process for the proposed expansion of the Fashion Outlet of Niagara Falls.

Supervisor Steve Richards said the approval gives the board the authority to gather information regarding the expansion from other agencies, neighboring businesses and property owners near the Military Road shopping mall. Traffic, noise, air pollution and drainage are some of the topics the board is interested in discussing with the other parties, he said.

Preliminary plans for the $71 million expansion, which are now being reviewed by the town Planning Board, include an additional 230,000 square feet, 175,000 of which would encompass retail space for about 50 stores. The mall’s owners have asked the town’s Industrial Development Agency for a 15-year tax break.

Deputy Supervisor Danny Sklarski said the lead agency status is logical as the town is the largest stakeholder involved in the project.

In another move, the board approved a background check policy for all full-, part-time and volunteer town positions working with children.

The policy, which has been in the works since February, requires all applicants for positions with the town youth and recreation programs to consent to a review of criminal backgrounds and receive clearances through the State Sex Offender Registry and the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

Richards said he wanted the policy in place as the Town of Amherst was cited this year by the State Comptroller’s Office for not establishing such a policy.

However, Town Attorney Michael Risman told the board that while towns are not subject to the requirement, it is a good idea to have the concept in place for anyone who works with children.

Richards and Sklarski said the policy is a necessary protection.

Sklarski said the public would “know that each individual hired with your tax dollars has been cleared in all aspects.”