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PUBLIC HEARING SET ON TOPS GAS PUMPS

The Tonawanda Common Council has scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Nov. 30 on the plan to allow gas pumps at the Tops Markets on Niagara Street.

The hearing will likely draw many of the residents from the Riverside community, who are most affected by the gas pumps.

There is only one way in and out of the neighborhood -- Creekmore Drive -- which runs right through the Tops parking lot. Because Tops expressed its intent to put gas pumps at the Niagara location, more than two years ago, the Riverside community has opposed the supermarket chain every step of the way.

Following the public hearing, the Council will vote on the matter during a December meeting. Most likely, it will be the Dec. 7 meeting. Considering the Council has dealt with the issue for a long time now, Alderman Thomas Smyers said last week that the individual members have essentially made their decisions already.

During a recent meeting, Council President Carleton Zeisz told audience members, including residents of Riverside, that the public hearing will be held in an orderly fashion.

"I might as well tell you right now, it will not be a free-for-all," he said.

While Council members have dealt with the issue for years, they've never actually voted on the matter, although they came close several times.

Tops initially looked to rezone its entire property to allow for the pumps, but Riverside residents blocked the motion, as the property was too close to their homes. However, Tops went back and requested a petition to rezone a small area of land, farther away from homes but big enough to house their gas pumps.

The rezoning for Tops was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board a few months ago. City Attorney Ronald Trabucco recommended that the Council proceed by the book, so the issue was sent back to the Planning and Zoning Board for a public hearing and a recommendation from the board. While the hearing was held last week, the vote for a recommendation was a split 2-2 due to the absence of one member.

While no recommendation came from the Planning and Zoning Board, the Council will proceed with the hearing. The public hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 200 Niagara St.

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