Town officials are planning a tough environmental review of an $80 million shopping center proposed for Jericho Turnpike in Elwood.
Last week, the town board voted 4-1 to issue a "positive declaration" for the project, which will require Great Neck-based Villadom Corp. to undergo an intense study identifying and analyzing potential environmental impacts and to present a plan for remediation.
Town board member Mark Cuthbertson voted no.
The vote was based on a recommendation from the town planning board. A positive declaration means there is potential for significant adverse environmental impacts from the proposed project.
The proposed center would cover more than 400,000 square feet on 50 acres adjacent to the Mediavilla apple orchard. The project would feature a center that is two stories in some areas, and would include 1,800 ground-level parking spaces and an outdoor public area with a fountain.
Tenants are expected to include food, retail, service-type businesses and potentially office and medical space.
Kris Torkan, president of Villadom Corp., said his firm requested the more vigorous review. "We wanted to accelerate the process by submitting every conceivable requirement the town may have through the course of the permit review for the change of zone," he said.
The developer applied in March to go from one-acre residential and general business zoning to a planned shopping district. The next step for the zone change application is a public hearing, which the town board can hold before or after the environmental report is complete.
Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the project, if it goes forward, should provide an economic boost to the community.
"We see that the Elwood school district is having difficulty," Petrone said, referring to the fact that earlier this year Moody's Investors Service revised the district's bond rating outlook to negative, citing declining reserves and projected operating deficits. "If nothing else, it will provide them with . . . the commercial tax base that they don't have."
School board vice president Dan Ciccone said the developer has yet to sit with the school board, so he does not have details about the project.
"I'm very happy to hear that town officials will go through a very rigorous due diligence process before approving any kind of development that would be a change of zoning," he said.
Andrew Kaplan, president of the Manor Plains Civic Association and an Elwood school board trustee, said Torkan met with his group last year. They are concerned about the environmental impact and traffic the development could generate, but are "delighted" the town plans a tough environmental review.
Mary Jane Mackey of the Elwood Taxpayers Association said Torkan has met with her group at least twice. "I like it," she said of the proposal. "It's going to bring tax dollars into our community, and he's going to bring in some higher end stores, something a little different."