Niagara Gazette

December 17, 2013

Liquor store appeal denied

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Zoning Board of Appeals has again denied an east side business owner's bid to open a liquor store, this time with a resounding no.

Faisel Haruna was seeking a variance from the board that would allow him to open a liquor store in a neighborhood zoned as residential. He was denied the variance in a 3-3 vote at the board's November meeting.

Board member Richard Kinzia did not attend the November meeting, allowing for the tie vote, which, in turn, allowed for an amended resolution or a motion to deny to be brought forth during Tuesday's zoning board of appeals meeting.

On Tuesday, the board moved a motion to deny and voted 6 to 0 to turn down the variance.

Robert Restaino, Haruna's attorney, requested that the board reconsider the variance within days of the November vote. He said he tried to address some of the concerns raised during the November public hearing in an effort to convince the board to vote again.

"The process took a little different turn," Restaino said.

Haruna had originally applied for a variance that would have allowed him to move his convenience store - Irene's Mini Market - into a location at 424 24th St., a property he purchased in 2001.

Haruna - who lives in the apartments above the storefront with his extended family - worked out an agreement to keep his store in the building down the street, which he rents from Niagara Street Business Association President Jim Szwedo.

Haruna was granted that variance for the convenience store in June, but then reapplied to open the space as a liquor store at the advice of Restaino after he was granted a license to sell alcohol from the New York State Liquor Authority.

Restaino said his client - who has made significant investments into the building in anticipation of the liquor store opening - will now consider his options, which include appealing the zoning board's decision in state supreme court.

"Administratively . . . we have exhausted all options," Restaino said.

Zoning board of appeals member Christopher Stoianoff voted to approve the variance at the November meeting and then to deny it Tuesday night.

Stoianoff moved to amend the resolution at the November vote to include stipulations that Haruna work with block club members and start a neighborhood watch program as part of the variance before voting in support.

"I asked the owner to contact the block club council and to start a neighborhood watch with all his supporters," Stoianoff said. "That's not listed (in) Mr. Restaino's (request for an amendment)."

Leaders from the Niagara Falls Block Club Council and several neighbors of the store strongly oppose the proposed liquor store which, they said, would exacerbate crime issues in a section of the city that already has problems.

Dave Bieksza, an east side resident, said the neighborhood is too fragile to handle a liquor store.

"We just couldn't take any chances on this," Bieksza said.

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257.