The Town of Hamburg, New York says it is internationally famous for its Devonian fossils and shale outcroppings along the banks of the Eighteen Mile Creek. It also has the largest county fair in the United States. The town is home for some important Indian relics. But nowhere in its bio does the town mention its Wal-Mart, or the proposed supercenter being pushed by Benderson Development. Benderson is one of the largest privately owned development companies in North America. It describes itself as a “leader in retail and power center development” and as “one of the largest strip center developers nationwide.” Operating in over 35 states, Benderson owns and manages over 250 properties encompassing over 25 million square feet of retail space. Headquartered in University Park, Florida, Benderson has its largest regional offices in Buffalo, New York. Benderson today controls 15 million square feet of property in the northeast. Benderson centers are anchored by major national retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s , Kohl’s and BJ’s Wholesale Club, “which have been combined to create some of the finest power strip centers in the northeast today.” But Benderson “power strips” run into citizen controversy almost everywhere they go. Sprawl-Busters has documented Benderson Battles in Amherst, Victor, Niagara Falls, and Utica, New York, as well as Naples, Manatee County, and University Park, Florida. The latest conflict is in Hamburg, where residents in that town have written Sprawl-Busters with this update: ‘We are organizing a negative citizens response to a Super Wal-mart at a location known as Brierwood Square. This virtually empty plaza is located at the intersection of Rogers Road and Rt. 20, which is also known as Southwestern Blvd. This development
was first proposed in March of 2006 and will be discussed at a planning board meeting on July 19 for the fourth time. There will be an ad placed in the local news papers. We will have a public meeting on Thurs. July 13, for those citizens who share our belief that this location is the wrong space for this project. At this time, the planning board seems to be willing to accept Wal-mart’s environmental impact study. Our group will ask individuals who attend this meeting to circulate petitions to ask the planning board to not approve this development until a county or state environmental impact study is completed. We believe that this is the best plan of attack to allow our group to create a fact-based series of meetings and consolidate more citizen support to oppose this plan. Wal-Mart already has a store in the town of Hamburg approximately 3-4 miles away in an area which is heavily populated with commercial and retail businesses. This building would be empty.” In fact, Wal-Mart has five stores within 20 miles of Hamburg, and the Wal-Mart discount store in Hamburg itself will be shut down when the superstore opens, leaving New York state with one more “dark store” to fill. Wal-Mart already has 6 empty stores available in the Empire State, including 2 in Niagara Falls, New York.
This project should be subject to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which gives citizens an opportunity to retain environmental and legal experts to challenge the findings of the developer. Citizens will need to muster more than petitions to stop this deep-pocketed developer. For more background on Benderson, search Newsflash by the developer’s name.