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Benderson Development Co. is disputing claims that it owes the city about $80,000 in unpaid garbage-user fees, arguing that most of the properties already have contracts with private disposal firms or should be reclassified as vacant lots.

A leasing representative for one of the region's largest developers met with city officials for nearly two hours Wednesday to review the status of dozens of properties. The hearing wrapped up with the User Fee Board of Appeals reserving decision in the case.

Officials said Wednesday night that they were still calculating exactly how much Benderson claims it has been overbilled, but it was clear at Wednesday's hearing that the developer is disputing the vast majority of outstanding invoices.

For example, $47,000 of the user-fee charges were billed to properties in Benderson's Delaware Consumer Square off Elmwood Avenue in North Buffalo. Anthony L. Battista, the company's leasing representative, said the retail plaza is already serviced by a private disposal company and should be assessed for city garbage removal.

Battista also presented written documentation and photographs to support his position that about 20 other city properties owned by Benderson are being serviced by Modern Disposal Services, BFI and other waste haulers.

Battista also suggested that at least one large property on Main Street near Amherst Street has been overcharged by the city.

However, the Benderson spokesman acknowledged that a few properties on the list apparently have unpaid user-fee balances.

"We want to be responsible for whatever we owe," Battista said. "We certainly want to pay our fair share, and we expect to be treated no differently than anyone else."

The board indicated that it would need about a week to review documents supplied by Benderson, make final calculations and issue a decision on how much the company owes the city.

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