Niagara Gazette

February 21, 2014

Judge sides with zoning board in case involving controversial liquor store

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A state supreme court justice has denied a local businessman’s bid to overturn a Niagara Falls Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision that prevented him from opening a controversial liquor store on the city’s east side. 

New York State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello III has dismissed an Article 78 proceeding that attempted to overturn last year’s decision by the zoning board of appeals to deny a request for a variance filed by convenience store owner Faisel Haruna. 

Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson said Boniello determined that zoning board of appeals’ members did not act in an “arbitrary or capricious manner” in denying the variance request. 

Johnson declined comment on the ruling itself. 

Haruna’s attorney, Robert Restaino, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. 

Haruna requested the variance last year as part of a plan to move his convenience store — Irene’s Mini Market — into a location at 424 24th St.

The zoning board actually denied the variance request twice last year. The first vote failed in November in a 3-3 deadlocked vote. The tie vote allowed for an amended resolution to be considered at a follow-up zoning board of appeals meeting in December. During that meeting, board members rejected the variance request in a 6-to-0 vote. 

Haruna received a variance in June to open a convenience store at the location. He reapplied to open the space as a liquor store after being granted a license to sell alcohol from the New York State Liquor Authority.

Haruna argued that his project represented a significant investment in the building itself and his several of his supporters told the zoning board of appeals that they believed the liquor store would be an improvement in the community. 

During public meetings last year, several vocal east side residents and city block club members strongly encouraged the zoning board of appeals to reject the variance request, saying the liquor store would exacerbate existing neighborhood concerns, including crime. 

Zoning board of appeals Chairman John Pallaci said Boniello’s decision does not bar Haruna from using his 24th Street property as a convenience store. 

“He can open up a convenient store, but he can’t open a liquor store,” Pallaci said. 

Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.