By  on April 16, 2007

As open space dwindles, shopping center developers are being forced to seek locations in mature communities with existing malls.

That reality creates new challenges because land costs are higher in these locales, obtaining required permits and environmental approvals is more complicated, as well as often being difficult because of community opposition. Across the U.S., increasing numbers of local residents are battling mall development, raising concerns about traffic congestion, crime, pollution and more demands for municipal services.

A survey to gauge public opinion on new development conducted in 2006 by Saint Consulting Group, a land-use political consultancy, found that 73 percent of the respondents did not want new development in their communities.

Projects have been delayed for years as developers and civic groups become entangled in lawsuits. Taubman Center's proposal for a 860,000-square-foot Mall at Oyster Bay in Syosset, N.Y., with Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor as anchors, was unpopular from the start. A group called the Cerro Wire Coalition, named after the Cerro Wire and Cable Co., which owned the site, has battled against construction.

Mall developers also face opposition from competing shopping center owners. Taubman executives accused Simon Property Group of financing Syosset civic groups that object to the mall. Indianapolis-based Simon, which owns the nearby Roosevelt Field Mall and three other shopping centers on Long Island, has acknowledged that it contributed some funding to the opposition cause.

Simon executives could not be reached for comment.

The town board of Oyster Bay rejected Taubman's application in 2001. The developer took the case to state Supreme Court, calling the town's actions arbitrary and capricious. A state Supreme Court judge in 2002 ordered the town board to reconsider Taubman's proposal and during the last five years courts have instructed the town board to revisit the mall proposal. The town has appealed each time. Taubman, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is too heavily invested in the project to give up, having spent more than $122.5 million. In October, Taubman said it was seeking a final decision on its land use plan. The case is still pending.

Despite the war of attrition, the Taubman Web site features a rendering of the Mall at Oyster Bay, describing the project as "an extraordinary retail opportunity."

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