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The Cattaraugus County Legislature, by a 19-1 vote Wednesday, approved the sale of a strip of land that will allow Tops Markets to expand its Olean store.

The less than one-acre strip of land adjacent to the Cattaraugus County Nursing Home off West State Street will allow construction of a 78,000-square-foot super store that will open next year. Tops officials attending the meeting Wednesday heard opposition from their competitors at a public hearing that preceded the vote.

Representatives from Olean Wholesale, an independent grocers' cooperative, delivered a message from President James L. Robinson in which he quoted a marketing study predicting that after the new store opens, there will "be a significant decrease in full-time positions as a result of the closure of existing retail locations and the elimination of full-time management positions." Tops estimates the new store will lead to the creation of up to 300 jobs and generate $40,000 more in real estate taxes.

Several persons at the public hearing on the land sale said they were "customers." Jerry Baker of Olean said he's spoken to people on the street. "I support Tops, everybody wants it."

Legislator Richard Vossler, D-Allegany, voted against the sale. He later noted that when he was 12 years old, the Mahar family of Olean gave him a job in the family grocery store. The start enabled Vossler to obtain an education and career later in life as a comptroller at St. Bonaventure University. The Mahar family still operates several groceries in the Olean area. "I voted no just for that reason," Vossler said. "But let me tell you, I still shop at Tops."

The county is to receive $37,500 for the strip of land and has earmarked the money for a new courtyard for the nursing home.

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