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COUNCIL REJECTS GOLF COURSE AS SPORTS DOME SITE

Plans for a sports dome at North Tonawanda's Deerwood Golf Course were deflated Wednesday when the Common Council decided that while such a facility would be good for the city, the city-owned golf course is not the place for it.

Council President Daniel J. Cudzilo said the Council will encourage the dome investors' group, headed by former Buffalo Sabres player Tony McKegney, to look for another site in the city.

The proposal led to concerns among residents near the golf course on Sweeney Street about increased traffic and noise and the aesthetics of a 60-foot-high fabric dome in their neighborhood, as well as the effect on property values.

The group proposed a $1.5 million investment in the dome and a professional golf shop to be built on land leased from the city.

Jim May, an owner of the Sportsplex indoor sports facility in North Tonawanda and general manager of the Buffalo Blizzard soccer team, appeared before the Council last week and criticized the dome proposal.

May said he does not mind competition but does object to the dome on tax-exempt city property while Sportsplex pays more than $50,000 a year in local taxes on its private property. He contended that this would give the dome interests an unfair competitive advantage over Sportsplex.

However, McKegney said his group would be paying about the same amount in lease payments to the city that Sportsplex would be paying in taxes.

In another matter, Melody Fair impresario Ed Smith agreed, under pressure from city officials, to immediately pay up this year's back taxes on the theater at Wurlitzer Park.

City Treasurer Leslie J. Stolzenfels said Melody Fair has failed to make agreed-upon payments of $1,000 within 72 hours of each performance at Melody Fair, including the last five performances from July 13 to 26.

In dispute is an allegedly delinquent payment of $3,500 due from last year. Smith said he does not owe that amount.

Mrs. Stolzenfels said Smith owes a total of $231,259 in unpaid taxes dating from 1984. The total includes $64,055 in Niagara County taxes, she said.

Smith said he is losing money at Melody Fair because it is difficult competing with government-subsidized entertainment centers such as the Shea's Performing Arts Center, Artpark and Kleinhans Music Hall. He said he is not convinced that North Tonawanda supports his continuing in business.

Rudy Bersani, who identified himself as owner of the Melody Fair property, said he has $350,000 invested in Melody Fair and is resigned to the fact that he will not see a profit.

However, he said, Melody Fair should be saved as a "regional asset."

Bersani proposed that the city use the theater for student and community productions in lieu of back taxes.

Smith expressed dismay that Melody Fair does not qualify for tax abatement through the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, although four or five nearby businesses do qualify.

Since Smith's acquisition of the showplace, there have been three agreements for the payment of back taxes. Smith has defaulted on all of them, city officials say.

Mayor James A. McGinnis denied Smith's assertion that the city does not want Melody Fair.

However, the mayor said, he and the Council represent the entire city, adding that when Smith does not pay his taxes, other taxpayers must make it up.

Alderman Leonard J. Wudyka said he opposes the continued tax agreement with Smith because, under its terms, Melody Fair's back taxes could never be repaid.

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