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DEAL ALLOWS FOR NEW BUFFALO RIVER PARK

Under a land-swap agreement, a three-acre nature preserve will be established on the Buffalo River near Bailey Avenue, city officials say.

The agreement between the Friends of the Buffalo River and Iron Mountain Records Management of 100 Bailey also settles a court challenge seeking to block the company's plan to expand to within 25 feet of the riverbank.

Company officials, instead, agreed to a land swap that will preserve a nearly 100-foot-wide greenway along the river while allowing Iron Mountain to expand and add jobs, according to city negotiators.

City officials praised the settlement, saying it will benefit all parties, including the public, which will gain a 3.1-acre passive park in South Buffalo.

"The Friends of the Buffalo River made this a better deal," said Assistant Corporation Counsel Richard K. Stanton, who helped negotiate the agreement.

Barry Boyer, president of Friends of the Buffalo River, agreed that the settlement is a "win-win" for all involved.

"It's a very good settlement. Everyone gets something out of it, especially the river. We're saving a big chunk of flood-plain forest," Boyer said.

"We saved the jobs," said South Council Member Mary M. Martino, praising the land swap as "a good example of how you can sit down and negotiate a better outcome for all of us."

Martino described Boston-based Iron Mountain, which bills itself as the world's largest records management company, as "a clean business" that is considering expanding in the city.

Negotiators also credited Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana, whose district includes the park location, with helping to settle the long dispute.

Under the agreement, the company will buy more than three acres adjacent to its site from Anthony Bodami Jr. and use part of the land to expand its warehouse facility.

The company also has redesigned the structure to move it back more than 100 feet from the riverbank, allowing a greenway link through the area.

The city would buy the remaining two-thirds of the Bodami land for a passive nature preserve and park.

According to officials, the city hopes to recover part of the purchase cost under the state Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1996.

Officials said the company has about 28 jobs at its Bailey Avenue warehouse and is expected to add about 15.

The settlement is subject to site plan approval by the Planning Board and final court approval, Stanton said.

He noted that the land acquisition also must go before the Common Council.

Officials, however, were confident the matter will move through the final channels without encountering new impediments.

Documents will be filed Tuesday morning with the Common Council, paving the way for a possible vote later in the day.

Friends of the Buffalo River plans to hold a news conference moments before the Council meeting convenes.

Kenneth Sherman, the group's executive director, said advocates will push for immediate Council approval of the agreement.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said the settlement illustrates how collaboration can advance dual agendas.

"It's important that we act in the best interest of our environment while also encouraging economic development in the city," Masiello said.

Company officials first approached the city last year seeking to acquire part of the old right of way of Bailey Avenue, which was rerouted when the city built the current bridge over the Buffalo River.

The company laid out plans for a 62,000-square-foot records warehouse that, it said, would allow Iron Mountain to stay in the city and expand to meet business demands. Without the expansion, company officials said, the company would have to consider moving out of the city.

Critics claimed the company's design would require removing too many trees and extend development too close to the river, preventing a greenway along the bank.

During repeated Council hearings, critics also claimed the company's plans threatened a significant piece of forest that remained along the river within the city limits.

City lawmakers split over the plans, with Council Member At Large Charley H. Fisher III championing the position of the Friends of the Buffalo River and Martino urging the city to keep the company from moving jobs out the city.

Finally, last fall, Friends of the Buffalo River brought an action before State Supreme Court Justice Leo J. Fallon demanding an environmental study of the company plan.

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