Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 24, 2013

While Hamister watches, council majority refuses to move project forward


Niagara Gazette — Councilman Charles Walker made a motion to remove the item from the table at Wednesday’s meeting which was seconded by Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti.

The majority again voted to keep the agreement tabled, with Walker and Grandinetti voted to put it back on the agenda for action.

Choolokian said the process of negotiating the deal between the Hamister Group, USA Niagara and the city happened behind closed doors.

“We should have been updated every step of the way from day one,” Choolokian said. “They talk about transparency. We had two meetings in 16 months.”

But both Grandinetti and Walker said they never felt shut out of the process and that all the information needed to make a decision had been made available to all council members.

“The sale of the property is the city’s part of the development agreement,” Grandinetti said. “The council majority understood that all along.”

Hamister would invest $22 million in the project while USA Niagara will invest $2.75 million and the city will give the developer 310 Rainbow Blvd. for $100,000, according to the terms outlined in the development agreement, a nonbinding document that serves to outline terms before a final contract is executed.

The parcel, which currently serves as a parking lot operated by a group of business men who lease it from the city, was gifted to Niagara Falls by Cordish Co., the development company that handed over the Rainbow Centre mall building to Niagara County Community College in 2010.

The council majority argues that the land is worth more than the $100,000 outlined in the deal, citing an email from city assessor James Bird in which he estimated the market value to be as much as $2 million despite his office’s assessed value of $215,800.

Bird later told the Gazette that he was only providing a rough estimate in his email to Choolokian and said he suggested that city lawmakers have a professional appraisal done.

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Do you think cigarette sales to non-Native American customers should be taxed on reservations?

Yes. Items should be taxed like they are everywhere else.
No, the indian reservations are sovereign land and they are selling them on their land.
Not up to me. Native Americans decide the rules on their land.
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