Residents of the City of Tonawanda's River's Edge community turned out in force at a public hearing Tuesday to oppose a proposal to add gas pumps to the Niagara Street Tops store.
"It's a study in creeping, unregulated development," said Wayne Cameron. "This property is too small to hold a gas station."
The River's Edge neighborhood group attacked the proposal from all imaginable sides, citing research on the environmental, economic, cultural and safety impacts of adding gas pumps.
The main gripe residents had with the proposal was the pumps would be placed in the middle of the only street in and out of the neighborhood, Creekmore Drive.
During the nearly two-hour Common Council hearing, only two residents supported the gas pumps, and one them had a hand in getting the proposal before the Council in the first place.
"This (Niagara Street) lot was empty since the riverfront development started," said Sue Gregg, chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Board, which approved the initial rezoning of a small parcel of land for the gas pumps.
However, Gregg said she was speaking as a resident and business owner.
"The original thought for that property was for commercial," she said.
Attorney Adam Walters, who represented Tops at the hearing, said the addition of pumps at the store would bring many benefits to the city, including more competitive gas prices.
"This is an extremely safe operation," he said. "It's a very high-end system."
While Tops representatives brought display boards to show their operations, River's Edge community members brought their own, showing how other stores with gas pumps have affected their neighborhood.
"We are debating a gas station that will add few jobs and many headaches," said resident Don Fisher. "I think it's very clear tonight that we have done our homework."
Cheryl Lepsch, the only other resident who spoke in favor of the gas pumps, brought the Council several signed petitions in favor of the proposal.
"If they all came to speak tonight, we would be here for days," she said. "Politics aside, the Council needs to remember who voted them into the office; not the minority, but the majority."
Walters said Tops was looking to become competitive with department stores like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as dollar stores, by adding gas pumps at its many area stores.
"A lot of people are getting into the grocery business," he said. "Tops needs to look at other avenues to make up those losses."
"A balance needs to be struck between what the community wants and needs with what a business wants or needs," said River's Edge resident David Mallam. "It's clear the community does not want or need a fueling facility. Tops has not shown that they need it, although they may certainly want it."
The Council is expected to vote on the proposal later this month, possibly as soon as next week.