VICTOR — Despite push-back from Historic Valentown Museum advocates, the last sliver of undeveloped real estate across from Eastview Mall is now poised for transformation. In a unanimous vote by Town Board members Monday night, developers of Historic High Point Retail got the green light to rezone approximately 3.4 acres at 235 High St., Victor, from Residential-1 (R-1) to Planned Development District (PDD).
This rezone, on the heels of a public hearing the same night, gives Rochester developer Fred Rainaldi Jr. permission to proceed with Phase III of a project that features historic architecture and enhances the connection between High Street and Route 96.
Phase II of the project in 2012 included the construction of a 7,000-square-foot building — The North Face — as well as the restoration of the 1,800-square-foot cobblestone schoolhouse on an adjacent 1.72-acre parcel.
In Phase III, Rainaldi plans to build two one-story buildings on the 3.4-acre lot behind The North Face with a combined total of 25,000 square feet. The structures will house specialty retail shops and offices, he said.
“There is on-street parking and a pedestrian-scale environment — the core elements that we’ve identified,” said Rainaldi. “We feel this is a very appropriate completion of the project we’ve been working on over the last ten-plus years.”
The site, he said, has the ability to connect directly to other amenities, including community areas, hiking trails and a future electric car charging station. But the public hearing was not without strong opposition from the neighbors next door.
Impact on Valentown
Victor Historical Society President Katherine White, along with other members of the historical society board, cited possible negative impacts the development might have on Historic Valentown buildings and property. Concerns included increased surface drainage and storm water erosion, adequate vegetated buffer, adequate sewage system, increased traffic volume, and increased vibrations from traffic and construction.
“As stewards of these 19th century structures, we must be concerned about preserving their fragile rubble-stone foundations and plaster walls against the negative impact of high truck and traffic vibrations,” said White.
She reminded board members that Historic Valentown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s registry of the places most worthy of preservation in America, and spans nearly 14 acres. White said she did not believe enough study had been given to the impact the new development would have on Valentown’s buildings and acreage.
“Our board must, as the stewards of Historic Valentown, make sure that appearance does not take precedence over a careful evaluation of the impact of new construction upon the structural integrity of the nationally significant complex entrusted to our care,” White said. “We urge you not to rush into a vote tonight. Work with us to develop a plan.”
Victor resident Douglas Fisher also called for further exploration into the impact of the development. “There are so many questions raised and unanswered,” he said. “We can’t expect they would be answered until you have a full-blown environmental impact study.”
Shari Kosmerl of Berkshire Lane, Victor urged board members to give residents a chance to mull over the changes offered up Monday night. “With all this extra discussion, I feel like there should be more discussion so we can digest all of these new ideas,” Kosmerl said. “I feel it’s only fair.”
Responding to questions previously raised by members of the Planning Board and in conversation with members of the Victor Historic Advisory Committee, Doug Eldred of BME Associates outlined plan revisions that had been made. Eldred said the buffer between the Valentown property line and the new development had been increased from 20 feet to a minimum of 44 to 50 feet.
“We have committed to installing a densely landscaped berm in conjunction with the existing vegetation,” Eldred said. “We will provide a 100 percent visual buffer. If you’re sitting over at Valentown, you’ll look out and see vegetation.”
Eight parking spaces had been eliminated, Eldred said, and the parking area had been moved further away from Valentown property, to a location behind the two new “historically compatible” buildings that will house specialty retail shops, an office, and a café or doughnut shop. Eldred also said site drainage would be conveyed away from the Valentown property by storm water management and sewer systems.
To improve traffic flow, Eldred said the Town Board has authorized some reconstruction of High Street, which would likely include widening it to provide left turn lanes at Valentown, and adjusting the Uno Chicago Grill and Longhorn Steakhouse exits.
Even so, in a traffic impact review by Clark Patterson Lee Principal Associate Jennifer Michniewicz, it was found that “the proposed development should not have a significant impact on the immediate roadway network.”
Eldred said the architecture of the project had received a thumbs-up from the Victor Historic Advisory Board, which includes Historian Babette Huber.
In a June memo to councilmen, Planning Board Chair Joe Logan said his board “is satisfied with the architecture of the buildings and feel that the designs are appropriate for an historic village feeling.”
That’s what Rainaldi was aiming for, he said.
“I feel very strongly that we have a proposal before the board that protects the Valentown Museum and offers a chance to enjoy the museum,” Rainaldi said. “We’re incredibly proud of the design and excited to present it to the board. We are essentially building a 19th century village.”