Darius Pridgen, Ellicott District councilmember, is frustrated by TM Montante Development’s inability to move forward with plans to redevelop the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital campus.
Making matters worse, a massive mound of crushed concrete and dirt stands as a constant reminder of the dormant development project, and the failure of Buffalo officials to compel prompt removal of the demolition debris as required by the city code.
Aware that residents at the Canterbury Woods Gates Circle facility are angered by the sight of the debris pile and the dust blown from the nearby mound, Pridgen wants to see something happen at the site.
He’s pinned his hopes on a scheme devised by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) and Montante: If the Common Council characterizes this prestigious neighborhood as a “blighted area.” it could use an obscure state law to form the “Linwood Lafayette Urban Development Assistance Area” (UDAA), and give enhanced tax incentives and financial assistance to Montante.
But there’s a problem: the purpose of the statute (Article 16 of the state’s General Municipal Law) is not to bail out a financially strapped developer when its plans for an ambitious private project stalls.
Article 16’s generous incentives were meant to encourage hesitant private enterprises to help correct blight at city-owned properties that the municipality acquired through urban renewal or condemnation powers.
Faced with this question of legislative intent, Councilmember Pridgen should seek legal advice from a professional who does not have a potential conflict-of-interest. But he hasn’t. He’s asked for a written opinion on the legality of the proposed UDAA from the same BURA attorney who prepared the challenged request.
Pridgen appears more interested in protecting himself against a future claim that he acted recklessly, than complying with the law and preserving the Common Council’s integrity.
Arthur J. Giacalone