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CITY, NFTA STRIKE DEAL ON WATERFRONT LAND

An out-of-court settlement has been reached in a waterfront land dispute that pit the city against the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and threatened to delay shoreline development.

The memorandum of understanding, which is expected to be approved by the Common Council and the NFTA as early as this month, will ensure that the city is given input in outer harbor projects and receives some revenue from future development.

The NFTA also would drop all pending legal claims against the city and give Buffalo land in the Main-LaSalle neighborhood for $1.

NFTA Executive Director Lawrence M. Meckler and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello echoed the same theme at a City Hall news conference Wednesday when they stressed the importance of "cooperation" in moving waterfront initiatives forward. Three development groups recently submitted master plans for 120 acres of prime shoreline property.

Negotiators credited State Supreme Justice Joseph G. Makowski for his role in encouraging a settlement. Makowski had been pushing for an accord since summer, when the Council voted to challenge the NFTA's plan to sell 80 acres of prime waterfront land to the state for $4 million.

The land, which includes the Small Boat Harbor, would be turned into a state park. City officials argued that Buffalo maintains reversionary rights to the property and deserves compensation for signing off on the land deal.

Officials are confident the settlement will be approved, but support in the Council might not be unanimous. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., the lead sponsor of the lawsuit against the NFTA, said he still thinks Buffalo should receive monetary compensation and that the waterfront land should be taxable.

"As the agreement is written now, I would vote no," said Golombek.

The terms of the deal include:

Giving the city two voting seats on a six-member evaluation team to oversee outer harbor development.

Guarantees that developed waterfront parcels will generate payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to the city.

The city would receive half of all sale or lease proceeds generated at the Seaway Piers site. If the NFTA fails to develop the 13-acre site within 10 years, the city would have an option to buy the property.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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