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July 23, 2008

 

Wal-Mart project waits on DOT permit

State expected to issue permit soon to widen Route 13, add light, realign Bennie Road

By EVAN GEIBEL
Staff Reporter
egeibel@cortlandstandard.net

Although the grassy parcel off Route 13 in Cortlandville does not yet look any different, the Wal-Mart Supercenter project planned for the site continues to move forward.
The big box store chain is working with the state Department of Transportation to ensure that Route 13 stays accessible after the store opens and traffic increases.
Wal-Mart Public Affairs Senior Manager Philip Serghini said Tuesday that the traffic situation required mitigation, for which the company’s engineering firm — Rochester-based APD Engineering — is designing and seeking permit approval from the DOT.
Route 13 would have to be widened to accommodate Wal-Mart’s access to the highway, and a traffic signal would also be installed.
The road will be widened by about 30 feet along an approximately 1,500-foot stretch on its eastern side extending north from just past the reconfigured Bennie Road intersection to the Cortlandville Crossings mall. It will also be widened 30 feet along an 880-foot strip on its western side.
The access road to the 33.7-acre parcel of land would eventually become Bennie Road’s entrance onto Route 13, once the existing Bennie Road is cut off from Route 13 because of its unsafe proximity to South Cortland-Virgil Road.
“The developer has to cover the expense of keeping that road (Route 13) accessible, in spite of the increased traffic,” DOT spokesman Josh Ribakove said Tuesday, indicating that Wal-Mart would foot the cost of the improvements.
The expansion of Route 13 would be separate from the DOT’s improvements to Route 281 that are currently under way.
Ribakove said that the DOT has been meeting with Wal-Mart and that the issuance of a permit is “very close,” and the DOT does not anticipate any difficulties.
The 205,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter has been under development for about eight years, owing to opposition for locating the store on what many consider to be a sensitive recharge area for the Preble-Homer-Cortland Aquifer.
The town of Cortlandville granted its final approval last August, and the next day Sixth Judicial District Supreme Court Justice Ferris Lebous dismissed a lawsuit brought against the town and the store chain by the local environmental group Citizens for Aquifer Protection and Employment.
If not for the DOT’s concerns, the project would have gone out to bid earlier this summer.
Serghini has said that after the contractor has been hired, it takes about one year from the start of construction for the Supercenter to be completed.
Following a slow down in Wal-Mart’s aggressive growth last year, the company has begun to rein in its expansion domestically. Serghini acknowledged that fact in an e-mail.
“And, this year, all projects were reviewed to determine whether or not to proceed, including in Cortlandville,” Serghini wrote. “However, the company decided that it would proceed with that project.”
Projects in New York that were halted included the development of Wal-Mart Supercenters in Oswego and Bath.
However, the company is seeking an expansion of the existing Wal-Mart in Ithaca, to a Supercenter.
Due to the opposition, Cortlandville’s review of the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposal — which includes two roughly 1-acre parcels to be developed separately — was extensive, with the town demanding an advanced stormwater management system and environmentally-friendly store policies.
The exterior facade of the store would also be customized, as per the town Planning Board’s wishes. The face of the building will be broken up by several different mini-facades.
Wal-Mart owns the land for the Cortlandville Supercenter. The existing Wal-Mart store to the north on Route 13 has been purchased by the Lowe’s Home Improvement chain, which plans to demolish the existing Wal-Mart and build a new store on that site once the Wal-Mart Supercenter has opened.
The Lowe’s proposal is stalled with the town Planning Board, which has concerns with the proposed lot coverage.

 

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