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Tops Never Stops Seeking Gas Station on Grant St.
by Geoff Kelly
Not for the first time, the Tops Market at the corner of Grant and Amherst Streets is seeking to install gas pumps in its plaza, similar to those in the Tops plaza on Niagara and Maryland Streets.
In its application for the necessary approvals from the City of Buffalo, Tops’s attorney, Daniel Spitzer of Hodgson Russ, portrays the addition of four pumps serving up to eight cars, three underground gas tanks with a capacity of 25,000 gallons, and a lit canopy along Grant Street, adjacent to the Scajaquada Creek biking and walking trail, as part of a larger effort to overhaul the market’s interior and exterior. But clearly the central goal of the plan is to sell gas, an activity that Spitzer describes as a growing trend for grocery chains in the US.
One community group locate a mile away in the Elmwood Village, the Claremont Community Block Club, filed a letter of support for the project with the Common Council, which held a hearing on the matter last Tuesday. A host of others more immediate to the plaza—the Grant-Amherst Business Association, the Forest District Civic Association, Believe in Black Rock, Grant-Amherst Block Watchers, and a half dozen business owners and residents—have filed letters opposing the project.
Some object to siting underground gas tanks so near a waterway and trail system into which much remedial effort has been invested. Some object to the potential traffic complications.
But the singular theme running through all the objections is the supermarket’s failure to live up to promises it has made to the city and the Black Rock community in the past.
One seemingly minor example that looms large in the memories of neighborhood activists: In 1998, Tops committed to planting and maintaining 57 trees on its property, in reparation for illegally cutting trees and paving over greenspace that were to be part of the bike path. (The company also donated $5,000 for tree plantings elsewhere in the neighborhood.) That promise has gone unfulfilled, as is implicitly recognized in the current proposal: According to Spitzer, in conjunction with adding the gas pumps, Tops would “add 10 trees and 18 ornamental shrubs bringing the number of trees and shrubs on site to almost 60.”
Which is to say, the current number of trees and shrubs, combined, is well shy of the 57 trees Tops promised in 1998. Neighborhood activists peg the actual number of trees planted at about 30.
In 1996, city engineer Dan Kreuz complained in a letter to Mayor Tony Masiello that Tops was being uncooperative with the city’s efforts to extend and improve the Scajaquada Creek pathway: “Recent expansion of Tops parking lot seems to have ignored our schematic design plans for construction of the pathway. This entire area must be re-surveyed to determine impacts of the parking lot construction.”
Tops sought permission to add gas pumps in 2003 and again last year, and was denied permission both times because residents, business owners, and civic groups complained about Tops’s failure to live up to past promises, such as creating an 18-foot easement to accommodate the pathway; keeping delivery trucks parked in front of the store for extended periods of time; keeping the sidewalks around the plaza clear of snow; refraining from pushing snow from the parking lot on to the pathway; keeping the parking lot tidy; making access to the store pedestrian friendly; and on and on.
Tops has illegally paved greenspace and cut down trees, say business owners like David Zabinski of Kolona Funeral Home on Amherst Street. “They have been rejected twice before in efforts to bring a gas station here, and for good reason—it is not the right place for this to happen,” Zabinski wrote. “Please reject this proposal, and urge the applicant to still live up to their prior promises. It will only be through their living up to their word, that they can be taken at face value on any other project proposal.”
In addition to city approval, the proposal requires approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The matter remains before the Common Council.blog comments powered by Disqus
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