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50-50 split offered on back taxes

In an effort to head off a lawsuit over payment of back taxes on the building that once housed the headquarters of Occidental Chemical Co., its managing partner has offered to pay half of the taxes under protest if its minority partner will pay the other half, also under protest.

Representatives of Frank Parlato and his Whitestar Development Corp., principal owners of the building now called One Niagara, offered Thursday to pay half of about $476,000 in back taxes if the minority owner, Incredible Investments Ltd., would pay the rest.

If their tax protest ultimately is upheld, some or all of the tax payments could be returned to the owners.

The offer stems from an order obtained earlier this week by Incredible Investments directing Parlato and White-star Development to show cause Wednesday in State Supreme Court why they should not be compelled to pay the taxes or to have the court appoint a receiver to manage the property and pay the taxes.

Paul Grenga, attorney for Parlato and for Whitestar Development, and One Niagara President Tony Farina confirmed their offer to split the payment of back taxes with Incredible Investments. Incredible contends in court papers that Parlato has profited improperly from his investment in One Niagara and that the property soon would be foreclosed upon if the taxes were not paid, thus creating a substantial loss for Incredible Investments.

B. Kevin Burke Jr., attorney for Incredible, flatly rejected the 50-50 offer on Thursday. "It is a ridiculous, transparent sham," Burke said. "It's senseless."

Burke insisted that Parlato andWhitestar have an obligation to pay the taxes and that Incredible Investments, as a nonvoting minority partner, has no such obligation. He said the issue would be confronted Wednesday in court.

Meanwhile, the nine-story glass-enclosed building near Niagara Falls State Park and the Rainbow Bridge to Canada remains in operation, with tourist services on the first floor and an observation deck on the ninth floor. The rest of the building is vacant. It has a large parking lot that competes with nearby parking facilities operated by the state and by the City of Niagara Falls.