Orchard Park development plan extended for another year

December 7, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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Cabela's, the Nebraska-based sporting goods retailer that would anchor the proposed Orchard Park mall in Walker, recently announced a new store in Grand Junction, Colo. That, and one already under construction in New Jersey, "are the only two (new) Cabela's stores currently on our books" for 2010, according to Cabela's spokesman John Castillo.

Meanwhile, the city of Walker has extended the Orchard Park developers' preliminary site plan for another year, but a financing agreement between the cities of Walker and Wyoming and the developers, Walker Orchard Land Partners, has expired.

Walker Mayor Rob VerHeulen said it was the first extension of the preliminary site plan for the proposed 302-acre development on the north side of I-96. The plan was initially approved by Walker city officials in 2006.

Walker City Planner Frank Wash said the developers recently approached the city, requesting an extension of the preliminary site plan. Wash said Grandville attorney Zachary J. Bossenbroek, representing Walker Orchard Land Partners, was then asked by the Walker Planning Commission to provide an update on the project.

"What Zack offered as an update is (that) they are still trying to recruit business to the site, but obviously the economy and the lending environment are just not favorable to any kind of commercial development," said Wash.

Bossenbroek did not reply to messages left by the Business Journal via phone and e-mail.

Wash noted that no construction can take place until the Orchard Park developers come back to the Planning Commission with a detailed final site plan for commission approval.

"To get to that point, the whole process would have to be restarted," said Wash.

Wash also noted that the PA-425 agreement involving the property has expired.

Two years ago, the cities of Walker and Wyoming entered into a PA-425 agreement to take advantage of the brownfield status of the proposed mall site, which contains traces of toxic agricultural chemicals. The agreement would allow public streets and infrastructure at the site — which would cost millions — to be financed through future property taxes on the land and buildings.

Walker City Manager Cathy VanderMeulen said the agreement included "five or six different conditions" that had to be met.

She said the deadline has passed and "at least four or five (of the conditions) have not been met, under the agreement."

VanderMeulen said a renewed PA-425 agreement would have to come before the two city councils again, after certain amendments were made to parts of the original agreement.

"We never quite were able to get to an agreement" with the developers on precise details of the development plan, said VanderMeulen. There were more negotiations in early 2008 but as time passed and the economy got worse, "things just kind of fell off," she said.

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