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Accord with developer remains secret


01 August 2006

NIAGARA FALLS - The city's Law Department told City Council members Monday they could not see the April agreement that allows developer Frank Parlato to bypass the usual approvals in renovating and operating tourism businesses at 360 Rainbow Blvd.

"Essentially, it is an agreement between attorneys to dispose of a criminal court case, and I can't get into the specifics of it," Assistant Corporation Counsel Christopher Mazur said.

Mazur said a City Court judge felt the settlement was a fair way to resolve citations for several code violations, from an illegal parking lot to unsafe sidewalks. He and former Corporation Counsel Ronald D. Anton negotiated the settlement with Paul Grenga of Niagara Falls, who represents Parlato.

The Buffalo News revealed last week that the April 25 settlement gives Parlato what he calls a "180-day pass" to improve the former Occidental Chemical office building and operate new businesses without having to apply for approvals from the Planning Board until September. In exchange, the building was brought up to code and Parlato was issued a 60-day, certificate of occupancy that allows him to run a coffee shop and restaurant and to sell jewelry and souvenirs on the first floor.

"But the city still had to say, "OK, we'll go along with this,' " Council Chairman Charles Walker said at Monday's Council meeting. "I have a hard time understanding that we have an agreement made without Council approval."

Walker said he also has a problem with the fact that Parlato owes at least $500,000 in city, school and county property taxes.

"Some people struggle to get things done, and here's a guy who says, "I'm not going to pay this, and I'm not going to pay that,' " Walker said. "But we can still work out a deal with him so he can operate through the summer."

A paid parking lot, which some city leaders have called illegal, operates on the site, and tours for local attractions also are being sold without the proper permits. Mazur says the property is still under litigation.

"This was something that's between his attorney and [me] to try to put forth a road map to follow, but based on some [reports] I've received, we have to re-evaluate what we've done," Mazur said. "Ultimately it does give the city the right to go back in and reopen its prosecution."

Mayor Vince Anello pointed out that the agreement did get Parlato to install sprinklers and a fire alarm system, which the developer said cost $500,000.

Also Monday, the City Council rejected Anello's proposed capital improvement plan, which would have required borrowing $8 million.










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