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TOWN OF NIAGARA – Residents living near the planned Military Place retail and restaurant site will meet with developers next week to talk about changes proposed for the site plan.

At the suggestion of Benderson Development Co., the Town Board set the meeting so neighbors of the controversial development can discuss the impact of some modifications to the building and drainage designs at the site, which has been in blueprints for nearly five years. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Town Hall.

More than two dozen residents, mostly from Ziblut Court and Effie Drive, showed up at the board meeting Tuesday to question changes Benderson has proposed to the site, which is located across Military Road from the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. The board tabled the resolution to approve the changes until the special meeting.

The new plan would cancel, or at least, postpone, construction of a 60,000-square-foot building at the back of the site that was targeted for a big box store. According to Matthew Oates, senior civil engineer with Benderson, the unnamed tenant for the store dropped out. Also removed from the plans is the construction of a strip plaza at the site. Benderson representatives had said at previous meetings that the stores would not be built if there were no tenants.

Instead of continuing to clear the site for the original design, Oates said only the restaurant building for the Longhorn Steakhouse would be built near the road.

A former Perkins Restaurant on the other side of the property that was once occupied by John’s Flaming Hearth has been converted to include a Five Guys Burgers and Fries and a TCBY location.

Oates said Benderson felt it would be “much worse” to remove more trees from the property and put up a planned berm and fence as a barrier to the neighborhood homes if no buildings were there. The company did not “want to have just a building pad there for two to three years,” he said.

The drainage system also would be altered, it was noted. Rather than build Longhorn two feet higher to send storm water to a drainage pond at the rear of the property and then be piped to the storm sewer system on Military, Benderson now wants Lornhorn to be two feet lower, he said. Drainage from the restaurant site would run to the sewer system and a separate swale would be put in at the other end to carry the drainage to the front. Oates said the drainage modifications meet state Department of Environmental Conservation standards.

No further trees would be removed, he said. Earlier this year, workers cleared dozens of large trees from the property, drawing the ire of neighbors, who protested that dumpsters and the backs of buildings would now be visible from their backyards. Property values would decrease as a result, they said.

“It’s our opinion that the trees there today would provide a better buffer” than the berms, fencing and new trees, he explained.

Oates told residents that Benderson is “not changing the layout of the site” and is “still committed to doing everything” in the original plan. He stressed that the company has invested a lot of money in time and engineering work there.

Councilman Danny Sklarski said the modifications did constitute a significant change from what the board approved and that passage of a new plan would have to wait until after the informational hearing.