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Whole Foods fight


Some Brighton neighbors are organizing against a large development project proposed for Monroe Avenue, saying that it would compound traffic problems and alter the character of the area.

The Daniele Family Companies wants to redevelop approximately 10 acres along Monroe, including the sites of Mario's Italian Restaurant and Clover Lanes, into the high-end Palazzo Plaza. The project would consist of four buildings, including a 90,000 square foot organic market — said to be Whole Foods — bank, coffee shop, and retail. The developer has submitted an application to the Town of Brighton for review.

"The process will take time," Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle says. "We want public input both pro and con, or in the middle."

On the con side, a group of neighbors in the adjacent Clover Downs neighborhood will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, to discuss strategy to oppose the project. The meeting is at First Baptist Church, 175 Allens Creek Road.

"There's going to be a change in the nature of the neighborhood," says Ben Werzinger, a neighborhood resident who started an online petition against the project. The petition had 100 supporters as of Monday.

Traffic congestion is already a problem on Monroe Avenue between I-590 and Clover Street, Werzinger says, which is where the project would be built. Project critics worry that the plaza would draw more traffic to the corridor, making the area less safe and harder to navigate.

Neighbors also worry that access roads off of Clover and Allens Creek Road would become more congested.

Some critics also question the need for another grocery store on Monroe Avenue, which already has Wegmans and Trader Joe's nearby.

Danny Daniele, president of Daniele Family Companies, says that the project would offer benefits, including a substantial increase in property tax payments. The company's application to the town says that the project would also include a new traffic light on Monroe Avenue, pedestrian and cyclist access improvements, upgrades to a trail that passes along the property, and the protection of two acres of land as open space.

"Many neighbors have expressed their support in creating a new, refreshing shopping center in place of a very old, worn out bowling alley," Daniele says.

As for Whole Foods, when Danny and Anthony Daniele announced the Palazzo Plaza project last month, they said that the market may anchor the development. The two companies are in talks, Danny Daniele says. Large retailers often withhold site commitments until local governments sign off and construction starts.

"At this time, we have no formal plans for a store in the Rochester area," Whole Foods spokesperson Michael Sinatra said in an e-mail. "That said, since opening a store in Albany and announcing plans for a store in the Buffalo area, we do feel like there are incredible opportunities for Whole Foods Market in Upstate New York, including the greater Rochester area."