AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB)– A New York City businessman is caught up in a bitter struggle with the Town of Amherst over a vacant lot.
Town officials want to turn the site into an Amherst gateway, but John Catsimatidis, whose company owns and operates the Kwik Fill and Red Apple convenience stores, wants to hold on to his property, which the town is trying to take through a proceeding known as eminent domain.
John Catsimatidis is CEO of United Refining which has owned this vacant lot for nearly three decades.
Until 20 years ago it was a Red Apple, but the store closed and it has sat vacant here at the corner of Kenmore Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard ever since.
Amherst officials say it has been vacant long enough.
“We think we can do better. It is a gateway to the town. Frankly, it is a gateway to the Town of Tonawanda, City of Buffalo as well, but it is our gateway,” said Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa.
And Kulpa wants to turn the vacant lot into the town’s Gateway Park.
The town has bought the former hair salon next door, which will be demolished, and is proceeding through the process of eminent domain to buy Catsimatidis’ vacant lot.
The refinery CEO would eventually like to build another convenience store, but the lot is too small and he also needs the property next door.
“I like to create jobs, I would like to buy the property behind us to be able to make a larger gas station, and create maybe 20 jobs, 30 jobs, who knows what?” Catsimatidis said.
“Well it is not zoned for that and the town board frankly doesn’t want to zone it for that. We don’t need a service station in that location,” Kulpa added. “Holding empty parcels with a low tax yield, that is not okay here. It is not okay in the Town of Amherst. We are not going to settle for that.”
In a bid to hold onto his property, Catsimatidis is offering to lease his lot to the town for the park for a dollar until he is ready to build.
“We just want the Town of Amherst to reconsider, to make common sense. We will let them use the park for a little while until we build another business until we build another gas station, and we will keep paying the taxes,” Catsimatidis said.
John Catsimatidis is suing the Town of Amherst to prevent town officials from taking his property by eminent domain.
Earlier this year, the State’s Appellate Division in Rochester ruled against the New York businessman, and he is in trying to take his case to the Court of Appeals.