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IT SHOULD GALL taxpayers that they may get stuck with part of the cost of constructing the marina that was supposed to be built by the developers who put Shooters Cafe on public waterfront land.

The latest Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority initiative for getting itself out of this mess calls for trying to separate the restaurant and marina projects and letting the firm that has already violated its lease escape with the cafe, which is the most profitable half of the venture.

Whoever comes in to try to open the marina will then likely seek an assist from you-know-who: the taxpayer. Already, NFTA officials trying to put together such a deal are talking about having the marina built with help from the city of Buffalo and the Horizons Waterfront Commission.

Of course, the marina was supposed to have been built by EDB Inc., the corporation headed by Jeffrey J. Davis. The marina was supposed to have been constructed before the restaurant.

But in its eagerness to see the potential revenue-producing deal succeed -- EDB is supposed to pay rent to the NFTA -- the transit agency acquiesced while the firm opened the popular nightclub and restaurant on its land and left the marina plans on the backroom drawing board.

After failing to vigorously enforcing that
and other contract requirements, the NFTA now finds itself in a precarious legal position should it try to take EDB to court. Thus the effort to find a compromise.

It is unfortunate that the NFTA has to negotiate with EDB, which is being investigated by state and federal agencies, in order to avoid a legal fight it should have been guaranteed of winning. The same firm that violated the lease may now benefit from that very violation by retaining the cream of the two-part venture.

But if the NFTA is forced to do business with EDB, it should insist that the renegotiated restaurant rent be high enough not only to compensate for any extra business generated by the the proposed marina, but also to help offset any public subsidies that may be required.

It also should make sure past failures to enforce the lease do not preclude action if EDB and proposed new partner Lawrence H. Reger do not live up to terms of a renegotiated deal.

And in the face of this fiasco, the NFTA should finally concede that it lacks the expertise and -- considering its financial needs -- the motivation to act solely in the role of guardian of the waterfront. It should find a way to turn over the rest of its lakeside land to the Horizons Commission.

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