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TOWN BOARD AGREES TO CUT SUMMIT PARK ASSESSMENT

The Town Board agreed Monday to a $3 million property assessment reduction for the troubled Summit Park Mall.

Under the agreement with mall owner Forest City Enterprises, the mall property would be assessed at $13 million for the 1999 tax rolls.

Supervisor Timothy E. Demler declared the amount of reduction a victory because Forest City had sought more. The company also agreed to other measures designed to bring in more business.

"It's no secret the mall is struggling," Demler said. The declined value of the Canadian dollar and competition from the Niagara Factory Outlet Mall contributed to a sharp drop in business here, he said.

However, "it's not dead and buried." Recent sales figures have shown the 26-year-old mall "is on its way back," the supervisor noted.

For the first two months of 1998, sales have gone up by 40 percent, he said. He urged residents to continue their support of the mall.

Other indications of an upswing include the addition of six new outlet stores and a $3.5 million investment by Sears, one of the anchor stores.

He said the airplane museum at the mall, which is expected to open this year, is to receive a "major artifact from the Smithsonian" in Washington, D.C., on May 3. He would not elaborate.

Before negotiations, Forest City had requested a $9 million assessment reduction. As part of the agreement, the firm will provide more marketing help and invest funding to rebuild the mall, Demler said.

Another assessment agreement was reached with Elm Holdings which owns the former Carborundum Co. property on Cory Drive.

Under the agreement, the property's assessment would be reduced by $400,000 this year and by $200,000 in 1999. The assessment would hit $500,000 at the end of the agreement, it was noted.

The board also met behind closed doors with Niagara County Legislator Robert Villani and his son, Richard, regarding potential litigation.

Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said the discussion involved an incident during which Richard Villani was acting in his job as town constable on Forest City property.

No details were discussed and no action was taken by the board.

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