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Horizon brightens in bid for parking waiver

No news could be good news for a Niagara County real estate agent who wants to open a "relaxation spa" and a karaoke bar on Third Street by the start of this year's tourist season, but whose development plans have encountered a parking hurdle.

Alan Tsui has submitted site plans to the city to renovate two properties on the newly upgraded street -- a "relaxation spa" at 446 Third St. and a two-story karaoke bar at 511 and 513 Third St. -- which both need parking requirement variances.

There were no speakers at the Planning Board's public hearing on a plan to eliminate off-street parking requirements for all businesses in the downtown commercial district, except for hotels and motels.

Amending the city's downtown parking requirement -- which was adopted in 1994 -- would help out Tsui, whose request for a variance for his planned karaoke bar was stalled last month by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

While the board approved a parking variance for the relaxation spa, waiving the required 20 or so spaces, Chairman Vincent A. Spadorcia said the karaoke bar would have required more than 60 spaces to be waived. He said he felt that this was too much to ask, but is in favor of eliminating the parking requirement altogether because he thinks that it will make business smoother for other potential developers.

The zoning amendment to eliminate the parking requirements -- which would not affect Pine Avenue businesses -- could come to a Planning Board vote Feb. 22.

Also on Wednesday, a video store chain that wants to build its first location in the city is one step closer after the Planning Board decided to recommend to the City Council that two residential properties on 24th Street be rezoned to make way for the development.

Family Video -- an Illinois-based chain with stores primarily in the Midwest -- has submitted site plans to the city to build a 6,000-square-foot store with 42 parking spaces at Pine Avenue and 24th Street.

The company is planning to buy Georgio's Bar & Grill at 2401 Pine Ave., three adjacent homes on Pine Avenue, and an apartment building and small garage on 24th Street, according to regional director Todd Bezenah.

While the board voted unanimously to recommend that the two latter properties be rezoned to commercial, its chairman, Angelo D'Aloise, said that he has reservations about changing the classification of too much of the city's residential base for commercial use.

"Over the past few years, I've noticed many times the encroachment of businesses [into residential areas], and it bothers me to have to lose too much," he said after the meeting. "Let's face it: What you have there is horrendous. And [that part of] 24th Street is a business corridor, but those houses are going to be off the tax rolls. And you have to be careful when there are families involved."

e-mail gnorheim@buffnews.com

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