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TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Town Board formally accepted lead agency status Tuesday to review environmental concerns for the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls expansion project.

As lead agent for the state environmental quality review of the $71 million project, the board has the authority to request, review and make recommendations on issues such as traffic, noise, air pollution and drainage that are included in the studies developed by Macerich Co., the Santa Monica, Calif., company that owns the mall.

Supervisor Steven C. Richards said the town has received four letters, including ones from two state agencies, regarding the project since it announced its intentions last month.

The state Department of Transportation has requested that a traffic study of the surrounding area be performed for the project. At a public hearing two weeks ago, Councilman Charles Teixiera said the study needed to be done as soon as possible.

Richards had said that because of the expansion on the southwest end of the mall property, the main entrance for the mall would be moved from Military Road to the two-lane Factory Outlet Boulevard, a county road.

Though he had not approached Niagara County yet, Richards said, the county should widen the road because it would benefit most from the expansion because of the increase in sales tax. The project is expected to add 50 stores in about 170,000 square feet of retail space, as well as some 1,150 parking spots. Developers have said the expansion is needed to compete for Canadian shoppers.

Richards said the state Department of Environmental Conservation is concerned about a wetland portion on the southern end of the property.

Two other letters of consent for the town’s role came from the City of Niagara Falls and the county Health Department, the supervisor said.

The next action on the project could come at the May 17 meeting, if the board votes on rezoning the three lots the developers acquired for the expansion. The parcels currently are designated for residential use as the former location of Sabre Park, a mobile home development that was condemned.