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TOWN OF NIAGARA – Residents near a Military Road retail and restaurant site learned Wednesday from representatives of Benderson Development Co. that construction of only the first phase of the project is in the works now.

Benderson officials also told them that other parts of the development, including a 60,000-square-foot big-box store, would remain on hold.

As a result, a large number of trees that stand in the footprint of the planned store and a parking area will remain there for the time being, Benderson told residents.

Removal of the trees has been a sore spot in the plans for Military Place as neighbors have stressed the need to keep some sort of barriers between the development and their backyards. Benderson owns a little more than 21 acres at the site.

Company representatives said a deed restriction would be placed on the use of the land so that the perimeters would always include a 50-foot buffer.

The first phase of the project is the construction of a Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant in an area near the road, across from the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. Also adjacent is the converted Perkins Restaurant, which is to include a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, TCBY and Chipotle Mexican Grill. The conversion is well under way. Construction of the steakhouse has yet to begin.

Benderson told the Town Board and residents earlier this month that it lost the prospective tenant, so the big box store site would not be developed. The company has said consistently that no buildings would be constructed if tenants were not secured.

Ken Micon of Ziblut Court, who has been vocal about changes in the development, said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting that had been called by Benderson.

“We (the neighbors) met on our own at the end of the street two nights ago,” he said. “Our concern was not knowing about the trees.”

In the original construction plan and schedule, the existing trees were to be cut down and replaced with a smaller variety. Many trees were removed by Benderson in the spring.

“They (Benderson officials) guaranteed that the sides (of the property) would be 50 feet as a deed restriction,” Micon said. The deed restriction would ensure that any future owners of the property would have to keep the buffer.

The areas between the residents and the proposed buildings would feature 4-foot berms with 8-foot fences to provide privacy, it was noted.

The current drainage situation would lower the Longhorn site by 2 feet so stormwater would flow from the back of the property toward the road and the drainage system.