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L.A. Fitness project hits a minor snag in the Town of Hamburg

Overall, the Hamburg Town Board said they were pleased Monday (Feb. 25) with the proposal made by L.A. Fitness to construct a 35,000 square-foot building in the outer ring of the McKinley Mall.

They are sending the plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals with a negative recommendation in large part due to concerns over the size of a stand alone sign outside of the proposed facility.

Under the proposed plan, the developers, DDR Corporation, would tear down the building that formerly housed Rosa’s Homestore and the nearby building which formerly housed Rent-a-Center. According to Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters, these two facilities, which face Milestrip Road, were a combined 49,000 square-feet.

In its place, a new 35,000 square-feet building would be constructed that would house L.A. Fitness.

Normally, most requests like this would be decided by the Hamburg Town Planning Board – which looked over the proposal and recommended approval, said Sarah desJardins of the Hamburg Planning Department.

When the McKinley Mall was built in the 1980s, it was decided at that time that any construction in and around the mall would be decided by the town board.

“Because it lies within the McKinley Mall borders, the town board has final approval over site plan development,” Walters said.

The supervisor said overall, the board is pleased with the direction of the project. Their big concern deals with a stand alone sign that L.A. Fitness included in the plans.

The proposed sign is 154-inches wide by 120-inches, desJardins told the board.

“They’re allowed to have a detached sign, but this sign is too tall,” desJardins said.

Walters noted that besides the size of the sign, part of his concern is that at this time, the town’s Code Review Committee has been meeting and discussing sign ordinances, and that if the town were to approve allowing a sign this large, it would not be looked upon favorably by the committee.

Walters also was quick to point out that the town has no concerns about the signs that would be on the building. It is only the proposed free standing sign they are concerned with.

“It’s about four-feet too high and way over in square footage,” Walters said.

They were also concerned about the location of the proposal as it would be located on the northeast corner of the parcel. Part of the issue, Walters said, is that the sign would not be located close to an entry point.

desJardins told the board L.A. Fitness was not in a hurry and they issued the negative recommendation with the variances to come before the Town of Hamburg ZBA.

Town Councilmembers Amy Ziegler and Joseph Collins both agreed with the decision.

In other board news:

• Collins voiced his concern over a resolution to authorize payment agreements with Town of Hamburg Police Chief Michael Williams and Assistant Police Chief John Conlon. The term of the agreement, passed by a 2-1 vote, is from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2015.

This change came about after the State Comptroller’s Office informed the town about a year-and-a-half ago that they needed to alter the format of the agreement.

According to Walters, the agreement calls for a nearly three percent pay increase each year over four years.

The supervisor told Collins the town needed to alter the format of an agreement that was reached in 2008 when the town negotiated a deal with now former Police Chief Carmen Kesner, along with Williams (who was an assistant police chief at that time) and Conlon.

Walters said what was negotiated at the time included the chiefs removal from the Command Officers Union and that the chiefs would also not receive overtime pay.

Walters told the board there had been an “abuse of overtime” in the past and that is why this provision was sought and agreed upon.

The supervisor noted that the town continued to honor

The town also continued to honor benefits that were included in the prior agreement. Walters said there were about 10 different pay benefits.

“We’re just going to lump them all together,” Walters said is what they agreed upon in 2008.

The pension system accepted the payments for three years.

However, the comptroller’s office told the board they lumped all of the benefits together and did not delineate what the items were for.

Now, instead of using what was called the “premium pay” system, the town is itemizing the benefits to make it easier to read for the comptroller’s office.

Collins said he is concerned that this agreement could mean that taxpayers will have to pay more.

Walters told him the figures have not changed, only the format of how the information is given to the state for pensions.

Town of Hamburg Human Resources Consultant Brian Doyle said the only change in numbers from the previous agreement was a slight cost of living increase for Williams and Conlon.

“It’s simply giving them what they agreed to when they were promoted,” Walters said.

Collins attempted to hand Walters and Ziegler information on the salary and benefits packages that the chiefs are making.

Walters said he is not disputing the numbers, just the assertion that this agreement will mean an increase in the amount taxpayers will pay.

He added that they are continuing to get what they agreed upon, it is simply a different formula.

• Also on Monday, Collins offered a resolution to the board requesting that the town defend him in a lawsuit brought against him by resident Elizabeth Reszka, who is seeking to have Collins removed from his council seat.

Neither Walters or Ziegler seconded the resolution.

“Seeing no second, the resolution dies,” Walters said.

• The Hamburg Town Board will hold its next meeting beginning with a work session at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 11 at Hamburg Town Hall, 6100 South Park Ave. A regular meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

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