When people want to open food stores, used-car dealerships and some other types of businesses in Buffalo, they need approval from the Common Council.
But if someone wants to set up a garbage dump or trash transfer station in a neighborhood, lawmakers have no say. These decisions are left to the city Planning Board.
Lawmakers took the first step Tuesday to include the Council in decision-making when garbage-related enterprises are looking to come into the city. In an 8-0 vote, lawmakers asked city attorneys to draft a charter amendment that adds the Council as an approving body.
"We approve pole signs, but we don't have any approval power when someone wants to bring in garbage from all corners of the earth," said Council President David A. Franczyk, the bill's sponsor. "Garbage can be a serious health, safety and economic issue. It can even affect property owners' assessments."
Jack Wagner, who lives in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood, applauded the Council's push to add another layer of protection. Wagner said his home on Peabody Street is near a business that currently accepts demolition and construction debris. Twice in the past two years, Battaglia Demolition has pushed for an expansion that would add a transfer station for rotting garbage, medical waste and other debris. The proposal has faced opposition from some city officials.
"We don't need this kind of business in a neighborhood," Wagner said.
Once the charter amendment is drafted, it will come to the Council for a final vote. No referendum is required.
In other action Tuesday, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. criticized the city's top law enforcer for failing to back up claims that a volunteer police force has been using improper enforcement tactics.
In a letter to the Council, Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson claimed the Buffalo Special Police have been "conducting searches and detaining people without just cause or due process." Chief Ernest LaPlante, who heads a volunteer force that has nearly 60 members, said he knows of only one instance in which such concerns were raised. He said the volunteer was removed from the force.
Golombek said he has asked the Police Department to provide reports that support Gipson's allegations against the volunteer force, a group that has been active on and off since 1927. Golombek said that thus far, the Police Department has been unable to provide a "paper trail" to document the claims.
"The residents of the City of Buffalo deserve better than baseless allegations," Golombek said.
The issue surfaced after Golombek suggested giving the volunteer patrols the power to issue tickets for noise violations and other quality-of-life offenses. Golombek's push to expand the group's role spurred Gipson to inform lawmakers that he has numerous concerns about the Buffalo Special Police.
Legislation Committee Chairman Richard A. Fontana said he hopes to set up a meeting soon where Gipson and leaders of the volunteer force can try to resolve the issues.