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A Common Council committee today voted to approve a contract that deeds city-owned beach property in the Town of Evans to Erie County. A vote by the full Council is expected Oct. 29.

The agreement, worked out between city and county lawyers, provides for the transfer of Bennett Beach, about 25 miles southwest of downtown, to the county with some restrictions.

Under the agreement, the county will waive all taxes and fees owed by the city on the property, including those imposed by the Town of Evans, county, sewer and water districts.

Corporation Counsel Edward Peace informed city lawmakers that the county attorney has issued an opinion that the county does not have authority to waive any special district assessments on the property.

Council Member at Large Barbra Kavanaugh estimated the taxes owed on the beach at about $100,000.

The beach would be operated as a public facility, comparable to any other county-operated park. Also, the county may not in the future transfer operation of the beach or sell it to a third party without first obtaining the city's written approval.

The deal also includes a provision restoring city ownership when and if the county is either unable or no longer wants to operate it as a public beach.

Lawyers began thrashing out a new proposal for a county takeover of the beach after eight of the Council's 13 members in May introduced a proposal deeding the beach to the county.

Opponents of the takeover had hoped the state would buy the beach, contending that the beach has value and that the city should be compensated for giving it up. But supporters insist the beach is a regional attraction that is best managed by the county.

Since Buffalo reclaimed the beach from the county in 1990, the gates have been locked more summers than not.

"It's time to put this issue behind us," said Ms. Kavanaugh. "The city has never been able to keep this beach open for the public, and now, with the county takeover, it should, hopefully, be open next summer."

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