As Love Canal 2000 pitched its plans for a museum and viewing tower at the former toxic dump at a public meeting Tuesday, it became apparent that the historical group doesn't control the land it wants to use and may end up in a bidding war for it.
Frank W. Cornell, executive director of the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency, said Tuesday, "I have not been approached by the Love Canal 2000 group officially."
But he said he was approached by a private developer, whom he wouldn't identify, about two weeks ago. That person told Cornell he wanted to place a business, suitable for the light industrial zoning, on the last 35 acres in the former emergency declaration area that are still unspoken for.
"I have authority to sell the land or transfer the land," Cornell said. He said if no one buys it, he will transfer it, either to the City of Niagara Falls or to the state.
"Informally, I'm certain the agency has been approached," insisted County Legislator Samuel P. Granieri, chairman of Love Canal 2000. "I'll look into that (today)."
Cornell said the property from 100th Street to 102nd Street, between Colvin Boulevard and Frontier Avenue, was appraised several years ago at $4,000 an acre. He said he's now asking $2,000 an acre.
Cornell said his developer was talking as if he wanted all 35 acres. Love Canal 2000 is seeking the southernmost 14 acres for its educational and interpretive center.
Susan L. Wattle, former executive director of the revitalization agency, said the property was declared uninhabitable, or "inappropriate for residential use," by state and federal environmental and health agencies. However, other uses, including a light industry or a museum, are allowed and considered safe.
Meanwhile, consultants presented details of the museum plan at a meeting attended by about 20 people in Niagara Falls High School on Tuesday night.
Elizabeth Cheteny of Allee King Rosen & Fleming, an East Aurora firm that performed a $30,000 feasibility study, said the 13,000-square-foot, two-story museum and a 60-foot observation tower would cost about $6.4 million, fully furnished.
The tower would be erected at the northeast corner of Frontier Avenue and 100th Street, affording a view of the fenced-off containment area, the toxic dump itself, on the west side of 100th Street.
"That's the only place (the tower) could be. Otherwise you'd have to take down trees to see into the containment area," said architect Kathleen M. Kinan of Buffalo, who designed the concept.
Sam Giarrizzo of 98th Street, who has lived at Love Canal through the whole saga, condemned the project.
"I can see these guys (tourists) coming in and looking at me like a monkey in a zoo," Giarrizzo said. "The people there don't want it."
Granieri said the interpretive center "is far removed from the rehabilitated residential area."
Granieri said the complex would be owned by a public-private corporation. Cheteny said her study estimates the site could capture 1 percent to 3 percent of the roughly 5 million tourists who visit Niagara Falls each year, or 50,000 to 150,000 people. But she acknowledged: "We did not go out on the street and survey tourists. We talked to other facilities as to what they thought their audiences were."
City Senior Planner Thomas DeSantis said, "The administration is in favor of the proposal and supports the project."