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Manlius shopping center dismissed during initial stages

Plans for a grocery store and athletic field in the town of Manlius were discontinued Dec. 17 when board members voted down a proposal for a zone change, 5-1. Supervisor Mark Tetley was the sole member in favor of referring the project to the town planning board for further review.

Representatives of Cazenovia-based Sphere Development LLC had introduced plans for Manlius Place at the town board's Dec. 10 meeting. The project included a 78,000-square-foot Price Chopper, three retail spaces and an athletic field for community and school sports programs. The center was to be located at Route 92 near Enders Road, an area now zoned residential.

Residents from Mallard's Landing voiced their disapproval after a brief presentation made by Matt Rogers of Saratoga Associates, representing the developers. Residents reminded the town board of a 1998 corridor study of zoning that aimed to protect that residential area from too much future development.

"The goals that were expressed in the comprehensive plan were to maintain and improve the current character of the area," said resident Bob Jokl. "That didn't include a shopping center that had a residential look to it -- that's still commercial use. What the study wanted was a residential area."

Residents feared increased traffic would have an impact as well, although developers said their goal was to capture existing traffic as opposed to creating a regional draw.

"I can't imagine a grocery store not adding traffic to a two-lane highway that's already overextended," Jokl said.

Sphere Development's managing partner Kurt Wendler was shocked when Councilor Paul Susco questioned why the developers had not done a traffic study, claiming that town attorney Don Martin had advised them to hold off on this until the corridor study had been discussed.

"Had the board requested one, it would have been done," said Wendler, who also lives near the proposed site.

Other residents pointed out that no matter what's eventually developed at the site, traffic would increase.

Presidents of F-M lacrosse and football associations who attended the Dec. 10 meeting to support the construction of the proposed athletic field said it would help their programs immensely. Board members said the field should remain a separate issue.

Wendler said he was confused and disappointed by the lack of consideration the project was given.

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