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Walgreens’ plans top issue in Batavia 5th Ward race

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 6:53 a.m. CDT

BATAVIA – How the city should proceed on redevelopment plans for Walgreens, along with term limits, are a few of the issues in the race for 5th Ward alderman.

Fifth Ward Alderman Eldon Frydendall, who has been on the Batavia City Council for 32 years, is running for re-election April 9 against architect and Batavia Historic Preservation Commission member Steve Vasilion.

Walgreens wants to move its 12,650-square-foot store at 138 W. Wilson St. in the Batavia Plaza into a 15,000-square-foot building with a drive-thru just east of East China Inn.

The store’s plans have elicited debate because it would be set back about 70 feet from Wilson Street. The city’s zoning code requires a front building setback to be 10 feet or less.

Walgreens’ plans have been going through the city review process for more than a year. Vasilion said the city needs to improve its review process.

“There are a lot of developers who simply won’t come to Batavia because the process is too difficult and too long,” Vasilion said.

If elected to the City Council, Vasilion said he would have to recuse himself from voting on the Walgreens project because he has previously worked with Batavia Enterprises, which owns the Batavia Plaza.

“When I explain my relationship with Batavia Enterprises, the voters say they appreciate my candor about this,” Vasilion said.

Frydendall said Batavia Enterprises has asked for the development to be delayed and has not furnished financial information about the project. Batavia Enterprises officials last week told plan commissioners they are waiting for the results of soil borings before moving forward.

Plan commissioners continued the project’s design review until their June 19 meeting.

Frydendall noted there is a publicly owned 48-inch storm sewer on the property on which Walgreens wants to build.

“If the developer and Walgreens want to move the pipe, they should pay for it, not the public,” he said.

Frydendall said city officials have been aggressively seeking new businesses, noting the city successfully landed Rubicon – which manufactures artificial sapphire crystals that primarily go into LED lighting – in a depressed market.

Regarding Frydendall’s long tenure on the City Council, Vasilion said 32 years is too long for someone to serve on a government body. He said he has talked to 5th Ward residents who believe there should be term limits on the City Council.

“I admire the length of service and the dedication that he has put into the city,” he said. “That is a huge commitment to making our community a better place. I think it is too long for anybody.”

Frydendall disagreed.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “My mind is sharp. I have the ambition. I probably have more time now than ever.

“Quite honestly, I think it’s a poor excuse to say that somebody’s been doing a good job for too long.”

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