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Restrictions on the use of the former St. Mary of Sorrows Church may prove a stumbling block to a group competing to operate the cable television public access channel in Buffalo.

At a hearing today, two non-profit groups made their pitch to a Common Council committee for operating cable Channel 10. The channel has been without an operator since Sun Ship Communications lost its contract a year ago.

Buffalo Citizens Television wants to locate in the King Urban Life Center, formerly St. Mary of Sorrows Church on Genesee Street. The city now owns the building and is renovating it for use as a community cultural center.

The other group, Buffalo Community Television, has not yet identified a site where it would operate. A third group from the Buffalo public school district missed the deadline for submitting a proposal by two days.

North Council Member David P. Rutecki, chairman of the Council Cable Television Committee, said the city Law Department will review whether the school proposal can be accepted. It would be based in the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts.

City lawyers also are being asked to review the Buffalo Citizens Television proposal to determine whether it violates the sales agreement for the St. Mary of Sorrows building. The city bought the building in 1989.

The agreement prohibits activities in the building related to abortion, birth control, sterilization, artificial insemination and euthanasia. It also prohibits any religious services from the building.

Since public access programming allows a wide variety of viewpoints, Rutecki said there are concerns about whether programs related to matters in the deed restrictions can be produced or broadcast from the former church.

At stake is a contract worth $80,000 a year to operate the public access channel. The money is provided by TCI of Buffalo as part of its contract for the city's cable franchise. There also will be a $120,000, one-time grant for purchasing equipment.

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