Mayor pushes for Falls Event Center

A drawing by CJS Architects depicts a potential location for a new gateway to Niagara Falls, an event center with an entertainment and sports area, skating rink and parking area which is being called Centennial Park.

The Niagara Falls City Council will host a pair of public hearings on today, one of which could impact a moratorium on the development of high energy use industries in the city.

A public hearing on proposed amendments to the city’s Zoning Code that would further govern the location and operation of so-called high-energy use industries such as data centers and crypto-mining facilities will take place at 7 p.m. today.

A public hearing on the possible acquisition, by eminent domain, of two South End properties for the Centennial Park project for 6 p.m. today.

The council has been engaged in a frantic effort to adopt the zoning code amendments before the expiration, in September, of a moratorium on the siting of new high-energy use facilities in the city.

The council first adopted the six-month moratorium on “the creation, establishment, development, construction, expansion, enlargement, and operation of commercial data centers” in the city in December. The moratorium, which also includes bitcoin mining operations was later extended to Sept. 13.

The zoning code amendments have already been approved and recommended by the Niagara Falls and Niagara County Planning boards.

The Council held a public hearing on the proposed eminent domain action on June 29 and lawyers for the city and Niagara Falls Redevelopment (NFR), which currently owns the properties along John Daly Memorial Parkway and at 907 Falls Street, locked horns over the proposal. NFR has said that they are working with a Canadian-based construction company to build a “technology and data center campus” on that land.

After recessing the hearing, the new date will allow additional public comment on the plans and is expected to generate further debate between city officials and NFR.

Council members also approved an extension of a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant to True Bethel Church for the completion of its $14 million True Bethel Commons project. The project, which was delayed by the COVID pandemic, features 39 newly constructed apartments in the 1100 block of South Avenue, on the campus of the former Sacred Heart school, convent house and rectory.

The grant will help to cover preliminary costs associated with the project which is expected to now be completed by December 2023.

The Council also approved a new agreement with the state’s Unified Court System to provide cleaning and repairs services at the Main Street municipal building and a new agreement between the Niagara Falls School District and the city to provide Falls police officers to act as school resource officers.

Council members additionally approved an agreement with J.R. Militello Realty to act as the property manager for the City Market, while the city seeks a long-term plan for the property. Council members also OK’d a contract with the Field and Fork Network to take over management of the Farmer’s Market at the City Market.

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