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Falls lawmakers consider eminent domain measures | Local News

Residents will likely have another chance to weigh in on the city’s ongoing efforts to acquire, through eminent domain, land owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment for the mayor’s proposed $150 million Centennial Park project. Robert Restano.

Falls officials cancel special meeting

Restaino has called a special meeting for Monday where city lawmakers are to consider his administration’s request to hold a second public hearing on Aug. 31 under the eminent domain proceeding.

A separate resolution, also on the agenda for Monday’s special meeting, asks council members to declare the city the lead agency for a state environmental review required as part of the land acquisition process.

Monday’s special meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 745 Main Street.

The council held its first public hearing on the eminent domain proceeding on June 30.

Dan Spitzer, an attorney with the Hodgson Russ law firm who is representing the city in the eminent domain proceeding, said the council was not legally required to hold a second public hearing, but would do so to allow the administration to present additional information and to give residents another opportunity to respond.

“The mayor and council want to insist that the public have feedback on this important project,” Spitzer said.

Council Chairman John Spanbauer said he expects officials from the administration to present more detailed information at the next hearing, including the results of an initial environmental review and a study. Traffic.

After the hearing is over, Spanbauer said Restaino’s administration has 90 days to provide a summary of public comments.

Restaino wants to grab 12 acres of NFR land in the 900 block of Falls Street, just off John B. Daly Boulevard, for Centennial Park, a concept billed as a “year-round event campus” that would include an arena, amphitheater , an ice rink and a climbing adventure course.

A day before the first public hearing in the eminent domain proceeding, NFR announced a plan to partner with Toronto-based Urbacon to develop a $1.48 billion data center called “Niagara Digital Campus” in the same area.

Holding another hearing and advancing the eminent domain process does not mean the city will actually seize ownership of NFR, Spanbauer said. He noted that negotiations between Restaino’s administration and the company are continuing.

“I believe there are good conversations between NFR and the mayor,” Spanbauer said. “I think there’s progress being made that might not go into eminent domain.”

Spanbauer acknowledged that many details remain unknown about Centennial Park, including where the $150 million to build it would come from.

He envisions some kind of public-private partnership, citing New York State and the Seneca Nation of Indians as potential supporters.

He noted, as Restaino has done previously, that members of the Western New York delegation to the New York State Legislature indicated that the city would need “control of the site” before discussing possible state funding.

“We will not be able to obtain any type of financing until the property is acquired,” Spanbauer said. “The state told the mayor. You’re not going to talk about financing a project if you don’t have the property.

There are other unanswered questions, including who would run Centennial Park if it were built and at what potential annual cost?

During the June public hearing, Spitzer indicated that the project is designed as a public undertaking.

On Friday, Spitzer, who likened the project to a “park,” said if it goes ahead, Centennial Park would operate under the auspices of the city’s recreation department.

Spitzer acknowledged that the administration hasn’t spelled out the potential long-term costs to taxpayers, saying, “I don’t know if they’ve gotten to that level of detail in terms of operations.”

“When you build a park for your community, your goal is not profit,” he added.

Councilwoman Donta Myles questions why, at this stage of the eminent domain proceeding, the administration has not presented more detailed financial information, including estimates of what it might cost the city to run Centennial Park from year to year.

“There are no numbers,” Myles said. “There are no numbers on what it will bring, how much it will cost us, what kind of effect it will have over the next five, ten, 15 or 20 years.”

Myles said he also wondered about the path to eminent domain without having dedicated funding sources to support the project. The city says it needs the land to build.

“Where is the state support? Myles said. “You have no written state endorsement or federal funding, so right now it’s all just an idea. There is no transparency on the fiscal responsibility of this project.

Spitzer, the city’s attorney, said a “conceptual plan” was sufficient at this point in the eminent domain process for the city to continue exploring various elements of the project, including the potential environmental impact and the impact on local traffic. He said there is “certainly a plan and a location and activities identified”.

“You don’t need building permit plans to do an environmental assessment,” he said.

Why an NFR property and not a location where the city already owns land elsewhere?

Spitzer said because the property in question is “significantly underutilized” and is located in a downtown area where it can support Centennial Park’s primary purpose — attracting tourists year-round.

As for eminent domain, Spitzer said, “At this point, there is no liability” to the city.

If the city got to the point where it met all of its legal obligations to acquire the property, Spitzer said the city would have two years to complete the actual acquisition.

Spitzer noted that “merely approving the take” is “in no way a commitment of funds.”

“There is nothing at this stage of the proceedings that creates municipal liability,” Spitzer said.