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TOWN OKS WESTY TAX SETTLEMENT

The Cheektowaga Town Board has agreed to accept a settlement for $1.2 million owed to the town in back taxes from the old Westinghouse plant.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority last month reached a deal to acquire the Westinghouse site on Genesee Street near Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

That means the NFTA will demolish the derelict building, clean up the property and pay $7.5 million in back payments in lieu of taxes owed to the town, the county and the Maryvale and Lancaster school districts.

Cheektowaga officials accepted the offer earlier this week. The county and two school districts accepted similar settlements last week.

Cheektowaga will be paid $1,270,282 over a three-year period, Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said. It breaks down to $789,772 in principal payments, $438,295 in interest and $42,215 in penalties, he said.

While Cheektowaga officials are happy the town will get its money and the eyesore of a building will be razed, they're also a little concerned about receiving future taxes on portions of the 119-acre site slated for redevelopment.

The NFTA wants to use the property to expand the airport's runway, but dozens of acres along Holtz Road are slated for economic redevelopment as well.

Cheektowaga has complained over the years that not all the tax-exempt property owned by the NFTA is used strictly for airport or transportation purposes. The town, therefore, should be able to collect taxes from some of the private business operating on the NFTA property, lawmakers claim.

"I would encourage the NFTA to sell the property (slated for redevelopment) and encourage private development, instead of land-banking it," Gabryszak said.

At the very least, said Councilman Jeff Swiatek, there needs to be clarification about what businesses are considered transportation so the town doesn't lose out on taxes it deserves.

"It's a wonderful agreement," Swiatek said of the Westinghouse acquisition, "but there are some significant issues that need to be resolved."

Under terms of the recent settlement, however, the NFTA has agreed payments in lieu of taxes will be paid on Westinghouse property where there is nontransportation-related development, said Richard J. Tobe, county commissioner of environment and planning.

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