On April 26, 2003, Sprawl-Busters described the efforts of residents in Victor, New York to stop a proposed “Victor Commerce Park” development, which included a 204,000 sq.ft. Wal-Mart Superstore, three strip plazas, three restaurants, five office buildings, one hotel, one out parcel, for a total of 566,000 sq. ft. There would have been parking for nearly 3,000 cars and only one entrance/exit. It was proposed for a 95 acre parcel surrounded by residential property. The land includes both residential and commercial property. However, according to the town code, when property has two zoning districts, the most conservative zoning rules. The developers, Benderson Development Company, wanted to use a property swap to rezone the parcel in order to make this mini-city possible, instead of going before the zoning board to rezone the property. Last night, the Victor Planning Board Tuesday night ruled that the proposed Wal-Mart superstore was not a good fit for a development site along a busy stretch of Route 96 and near residential
Neighborhoods, according to the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. By a 6-1 vote, the Planning Board issued a statement of findings that says that no single building in Benderson’s proposed Victor Commerce Park could be more than 100,000 sq. ft. That means Benderson’s Wal-Mart supercenter, which has now grown to 211,699 s.f., is simply too big for the parcel. Benderson could now resubmit a plan that meets the criteria in the Planning Board’s 40-page findings, including a requirement that 51% of the 95 acres must remain open, and that businesses in the proposed development should not be open throughout the night. The developer’s traffic engineers insisted that the traffic problems posed by this enormous development could be addressed, but the Planning Board was not convinced. Town officials said that Benderson could sue the town if they simply rejected the project. “The developer has a legal right to put something on the property. We were in a bind,” the Planning Board Chairman John told the newspaper. Wal-Mart could agree to build a store no larger than 100,000 s.f. “We don’t have an indication from Wal-Mart whether they would want to be part of a proposal that has that limitation,” a Benderson official told the newspaper. The developer now has until October 17th to submit a revised plan conforming to the Planning Board’s findings. The developer said that if Wal-Mart doesn’t downsize for this project, another retailer – with a smaller store – might replace Wal-Mart, although Wal-Mart could try to break down its project into several small stores. Benderson has owned this land for eight years.
This is what happens when a developer refuses to bend to what a community wants. Benderson wouldn’t bend. Victor has been clear about size limits, and land use goals — but the developer has succeeded in tying up its land for eight years, wasting time, money, and running up municipal costs — all for nothing. After all these years, Benderson still has to come back in with a plan that conforms to what the town wants. The threat that Wal-Mart might break its stores into smaller pieces is what the company postured to do in Dunkirk, Maryland, but never did, because of negative publicity. Wal-Mart can try to “game” the system, or, as they did in Tampa, Florida, just build one of their “Urban 99” stores at 99,000 s.f. Either way, the developer had a clear path to take, but muddied the waters so badly by ignoring local wishes, that it has spent a small fortune spinning its wheels, and leaving the residents in Victor victorious over this supercenter project.