Loud 'No' to Koenig proposal
County legislators, residents oppose spot rezoning in Town
By Frank Parlato Jr
January 12, 1995
Over 200 Town of Tonawanda
residents packed the Zion United
Church Of Christ, Wednesday night,
to hear Kim Feidler, spokesman for
The Benchmark Group, discuss his
plan to develop a 45,000 square foot
retail store on Koenig road and Niagara Falls Boulevard.
Since Koenig is a residential
street, the developer needs town approval to re-zone approximately 250
feet of the site before demolishing
five homes and building.
Feidler, a vice president of Benchmark, in attempting to explain merits of his plan to a mostly hostile
audience, said the "intended user"
of the building would be The Best
Buy Co. of Eden Prairie, a suburb of
He showed the audience a site
plan and an artist's rendering of the
proposed store, Joyce Hamner of
Koenig Road, stood up and, facing
the audience, asked if any in the
audience were in favor of the project.
No one raised a hand.
"The bottom line Mr. Feidler,"
she said, "is that we are going to do
everything that we can possibly to
do so that this does not get rezoned.
Green Acres is residential, we want
to keep it that way."
The audience applauded.
During the two-hour meeting, one
town resident after another questioned Feidler. They expressed dismay at how the Amherst developer
could seek to convert a residential
neighborhood into a busy commercial area.
Gary Lyford, the neighbor closest to where the proposed Bench-
mark building, said it would cause
both the street and the entire town a
Feidler introduced Sixto
Beltrandy an architect for Best Buy,
who said they operate around 200
retail appliance stores in 27 states.
This would be the first in Western
According to Beltrandy, the store
sells music-entertainment software,
audio-video equipment, computers
and home appliances and installs car
stereo systems, repairs equipment
and offers introductory courses for
computers sold in the store.
The store would be 25 feet from
the property line, 60 feet from the
road and about 50 feet from the nearest home. It would be 28 feet high,
higher than any of the existing homes
on Koenig. It's 45,000 square feet
would make it approximately 40
times larger than neighboring residential buildings.
Describing benefits, Beltrandy
said the store could generate $28-35
million in gross sales annually,
spending about $850,000 per year
on advertising and employing 120-150.
Connie Aquino, of Avon road,
asked what the wage scale would
be? Beltrandy said there would be a "wide cross Section" ofwages.
"I can't answer what percentage
will be minimum wage or how many
will be part time," he said.
Feidler said constructiom will also
create job opportunities. "It pumps
money into the economy." he said.
Three Erie County Legislators,
who represent the Town, attended
and went on record as unanimously
William Pauly (R-Amherst), who
represents the district where the
Benchmark project would be located,
said, "I'm totally opposed." "Take a
look at the Amherst side of Niagara
Falls Boulevard and ask yourself,
'do you want that on the Tonawanda
Legislator Charles Swanick (D-Kenmore) spoke about the precedent
such a proposal would set in town.
"Are we prepared to see this re-zoning begin on a regular basis? This
kind of spot zoning will destroy the
residential image of Tonawanda. It's
wrong, it's unacceptable.
Swanick's comments drew loud
and sustained applause.
Legislature Chairman, Len
Lenihan (D-Town of Tonawanda)
informed the audience that he, Pauly
and Swanick were going to send a
letter to the Town Board officially
recording their opposition to the
The Town Board makes the final
decision on rezoning.
Town Supervisor Carl Calabrese
told the audience that anyone has a
legal right to petition the town.
"Once an application for rezoning is filed, the Town Board has a
legal obligation to have a public hearing and then make a determination,"
he said. "However, if we, as a Town
Board, make any kind of pre-determination, then our subsequent ruling can be challenged in court and
After the meeting, when asked if
the opposition of neighbors and
county legislators might cause
Benchmark to reconsider, John
Giordano, an attorney for Benchmark
said, "Benchmark is going to have
to decide if they want to denote time
and resources to developing this area
knowing the community's sentiment.
I'm sure were going to sit down and
discuss our options."
Contact Frank Parlato Jr.