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LEGISLATORS LINK MEGA-MALL FUNDS TO CHURCHES NIAGARA LAWMAKERS BACK ARMENIAN CONGREGATIONS' BID FOR SURVIVAL

The Niagara County Legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to help save two Armenian churches from being demolished to make way for a $111 million factory outlet mega-mall in Niagara Falls.

The action, proposed by Legislator H. William Feder, R-Niagara Falls, came after hearing from two speakers representing about 60 members of the Armenian community in the Falls.

The action adds a 16th condition by the county before it provides about $27 million toward the construction of the mall in the Niagara Street area on the East Side.

The county earlier attached 15 conditions to a request for aid from Falls officials. Chief among them was a demand that the developer, Benderson Development Co. of Buffalo, buy rather than lease the mall land to keep it on the tax rolls.

Feder's district includes the parishes of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, and St. Hagop's Armenian Apostolic Church and Community Center in the 300 block of Ninth Street.

His resolution contended it was the "patent duty and obligation" of the Legislature to "protect and enhance the spiritual as well as the material or economic needs of our residents."

He was supported by Legislator Doris Skivington, D-Niagara Falls, who said it was "unbelieveable" that the Legislature "would even consider uprooting a church . . . we must preserve, not destroy."

Alice M. Arutunjan, a member of St. Hagop parish, and Mary Mukhtarian, of St. Sarkis, pleaded with the Legislature to convince the developers and Niagara Falls officials that the churches could "co-exist" with the planned mall. "We have co-existed and we can still do so," Ms. Arutunjan said.

Feder added that "this is the only (Armenian) religious center within 100 miles. We are not saying we don't want progress."

The Legislature said any county participation in the mega-mall project would "be contingent upon assurances that no church properties will be taken without the consent of the membership of the churches involved and without first having conscientiously and thoroughly analyzed the consequence of such action." The Legislature also:

Approved $25,000 to assist the towns of Porter and Lewiston in their legal fight against construction of a rotary kiln incinerator planned by CWM Chemical Services Inc. "The county will no longer tolerate the attempts to make (it) the hazardous-waste dumping ground for the entire Northeast," the resolution states.

Authorized $100,000 for asbestos abatement programs in county buildings.

Approved a low bid of $32,499 from the Baker Development & Construction of Lackawanna to build a band shelter at Oppenheim County Park in Wheatfield.

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