This column is an update on the status of the proposed Whole Foods Plaza. I believe the project will benefit the Brighton community in many ways, as discussed below. While there are traffic changes, the traffic study indicates little adverse traffic impact at peak traffic times. Decisions like this are never easy, but your Town Board took its job seriously, listened to your input and the input of professionals, balanced the pros and cons, required changes that improved the project, and ultimately made the unanimous decision that the project will benefit the community.
The developer will provide three significant amenities to the Town. First, the developer will build the Auburn Trail, from the Pittsford town line to Highland Avenue, nearly 2 miles. The trail will be a 10-foot-wide, multi-use bicycle/pedestrian ADA-accessible trail. Currently, most of the former Auburn rail line is undeveloped, without legal right of public access, but as part of the project, the developer will acquire the right for the public to use the land. Second, the developer will build a rear driveway connecting the properties across Monroe Avenue from the proposed Whole Foods Plaza, with access at one of the new traffic signals. This will dramatically improve traffic safety for drivers entering and exiting those stores, and encourage economic development. Finally, the developer will donate land on Clover Street, as a neighborhood buffer.
The proposed Plaza is located on approximately 10.3 acres of land at the Monroe Avenue/Interstate 590 interchange and consists of approximately 83,600 square feet of retail space, including a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods store. By comparison, the Pittsford Wegmans is approximately 134,000 square feet in size. The project will have two driveways on Monroe Avenue, one less driveway than there is today. The driveways will be protected with traffic signals, including left turn arrows, to improve safety. There will be no access to either Clover Street or Allens Creek Road.
The project was submitted to the town as an incentive zoning proposal, requiring the developer to provide community amenities as part of its application. Incentive zoning also allows the town to prevent a developer from seeking any tax abatements. Traditional zoning allows a developer to seek variances and tax abatements without offering any offsetting benefit to the community. It is estimated that the proposed plaza will pay as much as $400,000 in property taxes to the town, Brighton Central School District and Monroe County.
Following extensive environmental review by the Town Board, including five public hearings held over a period of nearly three years, during which the board listened to comments both pro and con, and the project was reduced in size twice from the original application, the Town Board unanimously approved the proposal on March 28, 2018. Three groups have filed lawsuits to block the project; one of those lawsuits has already been dismissed.