AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) - The battle between the Town of Amherst and the owner of a vacant lot has heated up, now that the lot's owner has taken out a full page ad in a local newspaper.
Ground zero is at the northeast corner of Kenmore Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard, a lot that has been a vacant lot for about 20 years, and neighborhood complaints prompted town offficials to tell the owner of the lot to put something there or sell it.
The lot, which used to be Kwik-Fill gas station, is still vacant and the town is trying to take control through a legal maneuver known as eminent doman.
Over the years, Kwik Fill's owner United Refining Company of Warren, Pennsylvania (URC) has made changes, mainly keeping the lot clean, and putting up the large cement blocks around the perimeter.
Amherst officials have taken steps to buy the property through the process of eminent domain, and United Refining's CEO, New York businessman John Catsimatidis took out a full page ad in the Amherst Bee, accusing the town of trying to steal their land.
"We have been paying taxes on it for the last 20 years. Why would they want to take a taxpayer, and take away the property from the taxpayer?"
Amherst Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa said the town has made offers to buy the property but URC has turned them down.
"They basically said, 'no we want to hold onto the property for future development.' The property is so small that no future development could be done on the property of any usefulness, and the zoning is such that you are very limited as what you can do."
Catsimatidis said he wants to develop the property, but does not seem to have any concrete plans for now.
"We were looking forward to opening up the location again, and now they have come up with eminent domain. It is a very anti-business."
Attorney Sliwa points out the corner of Kenmore Ave. and Niagara Falls Blvd. is in the corridor the NFTA is planning to extend Metro Rail from the University at Buffalo's South Campus to the very busy Amherst retail district.
URC has appealed the town's offer of $80,000 through eminent domain. A ruling from the New York State Supreme Court's Fourth Appellate Division in Rochester is expected as early as this week.