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GRELICK FAILS TO HALT PAYMENT TO 2 PROPERTY OWNERS

Two Amherst property owners who will sell land-development rights to the town now are in a position to seal a land deal between themselves, Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said.

And the deal would not be possible without the town's money, added the supervisor, who sought unsuccessfully Monday to block the town's payment of $720,000 to two landowners for the development rights to four parcels, a move designed to preserve farmland and open space.

During a special meeting Monday, Ms. Grelick asked the Town Board to rescind its vote. Last week, the board agreed to pay $364,000 to farmers Donald G. and Daniel J. Spoth for development rights to 144 acres on three parcels and $356,000 to developer Anthony Cimato for the rights to his 71-acre parcel.

Supporters of the plan call the purchases a first step to preserving 811 acres of farmland around Tonawanda Creek, Hopkins and Schoelles roads in north Amherst.

Ms. Grelick, however, said both landowners stand to benefit unfairly from the town's "subsidy." She said she learned from the Western New York Land Conservancy that the Spoths want to buy Cimato's 71 acres.

The Spoths would be able to afford the Cimato land only if Cimato first sells the development rights to the town, making the land less valuable because of its restricted use, Ms. Grelick said.

Currently, the Spoths farm Cimato's land for free, Cimato said.

"The Spoths will benefit three ways," Ms. Grelick said. "They'll receive money for their development rights, get a tax break because of their bargain price and then be able to buy Cimato's land.

"It's like the town is a partner in their deal with Cimato," she said. "I don't think the town should be in that position."

Ms. Grelick said she would abide by the Town Board's vote and sign contracts to buy the rights from the Spoths and Cimato despite her "reservations and great concern."

Other Town Board members said the town should encourage farmers like the Spoths to buy Cimato's land.

"We're accomplishing what we want," Council Member Jane Woodward said. "If that's what happens, then I say, 'Hurray!' "

Under the town's farmland preservation program, Cimato will receive $5,000 an acre for the development rights to his parcel.

The program has already come under question because Cimato will receive more than twice what an independent appraiser said the development rights are worth on his parcel.

In addition, the town's building commissioner said three-fourths of the Cimato parcel lies in a floodway, which would probably impede development there anyway.

Cimato bought the parcel in July 1976 for $72,000, or roughly $1,000 an acre, according to the town assessor's records.

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