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OWNERS OF TV TOWER THREATEN LAWSUIT IN TAX-STATUS DISPUTE

The owners of a 1,050-foot television tower on Center Road here are continuing to cause static for town officials.

Supervisor Jack Dellenburg said Monday that Tri-State Christian TV is threatening to sue the town if it interferes with its quest for a property-tax exemption.

A letter from a Washington, D.C., law firm representing Tri-State's parent company, dated Sept. 29, states that its client wants to "amicably resolve this issue without recourse to other remedies."

The letter also says the Internal Revenue Service and New York State have recognized Tri-State as tax-exempt.

"It looks like we're going to have another go-around with them," Dellenburg said. "They can take us to court, with all the static they've caused. I'm not so sure they would win."

The letter from Colby M. May of Washington says Tri-State filed an application for a local property-tax exemption, even though the federal and state tax-exempt status would override it.

Dellenburg said Tri-State missed the deadline to file for tax-exempt status with the town.

"They did not qualify, and they did not contest it," Dellenburg said.

He also said it is questionable whether state and federal income-tax exemption automatically results in an exemption from local taxes.

Tri-State is asking for its assessment to be eliminated, in writing, by next Monday. If the town grants this request, Tri-State would agree to pay any "back taxes." Dellenburg said he thinks that Tri-State "will have to pay the taxes, anyway."

The tower, which also has a climate-controlled building, is partly assessed at $1.2 million. The true value of the tower could be as much as $3.5 million, Dellenburg said.

The tax revenue from the tower is about $21,000 for Forestville schools, $10,000 for Chautauqua County and $9,000 for Arkwright.

Dellenburg said he is not pleased with how the town has been treated. "First, they came in here and switched licenses from a taxable enity to a tax-exempt one," he said. "I'm not so sure we could have stopped them, anyway, because of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulations.

"Then, they shook hands and told us they would install the red lights to replace the white strobe lights at night. This has not happened. I think they're balking at it because it's going to cost $50,000."

Tri-State has maintained that the red lights would be dangerous to migrating birds. A study has shown that the birds could become confused while migrating in inclement weather and could fly into the tower.

"I've got petitions with 850 names out of a town of 1,000 who want the red lights," Dellenburg said.

Residents want the tower lined with red lights for night use. The white strobe lights would remain in use during the day. The town has received numerous complaints that the strobe lights are a nuisance.

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