By Tony Farina
According to a story in the Niagara Gazette, Mayor Robert Restaino “expected” the notice of appeal filed by Niagara Falls Redevelopment against a decision last month by the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in favor of the city’s eminent domain bid to acquire up to 12 acres of South End land owned by NFR for the city’s proposed $150-million Centennial Park plan. That’s the no-money plan.
NFR last Wednesday, as Restaino “expected,” filed a notice of appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, arguing “it respectfully disagrees” with the ruling and that the lower court decision regarding the mayor’s park scheme “doesn’t begin to tell the story,” and it wishes to be heard.
NFR had argued before the Appellate Division panel that the state and U.S. constitutions prohibit the taking of private property absent a legitimate public use, and it is expected to make that same argument before the Court of Appeals if the high court agrees to hear the case.
So there you have it. All involved must now await the high court decision on whether to hear the appeal, meaning the stalemate between the city and NFR remains firmly in place. No data center that NFR wants to build and no Centennial Park project that the mayor wants even though it lacks financial support. In other words, nothing.
As we have argued in previous stories, we hope that cooler heads prevail and the two sides would get together to determine the best course for Niagara Falls. They now have more time, as it is anybody’s guess when or if the Court of Appeals arguments will take place.
We have argued that the city should get together with NFR and its Toronto-based partner Urbacon, and hash the matter out, weighing the pros and cons of the two projects, one that seems ready go forward (data center) with money at hand, or the city plan that is pegged at $150 million with no money currently in place.
Urbacon states that all of its data centers “are 100% occupied,” and estimates that the Niagara Falls data center, if it ever gets built, would create about 500 permanent jobs and 5,600 jobs during construction. Urbacon says its numbers are based on “very prominent studies on job creation and economic development, including by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.”
In other words, the job creation numbers are credible for the $1.48 billion Niagara Digital Campus targeted for Niagara Falls, and this from a company that already has three beautiful facilities in Toronto, Montreal, and Richmond Hill.
The city of Niagara Falls must act, in the eyes on many, and not wait around for another court decision that may or may not go the city’s way. Even if the city ultimately wins a Court of Appeals decision, what will it win and at what cost?
The city is still shopping for money for the park project should it win in the courts, but the $150-million price tag plus cost of the land with likely construction overruns could swell far beyond the original estimates. That burden will fall on taxpayers, local and state, and perhaps federal if any money comes through.
Again, we appeal for cooler heads to prevail and that the two sides come together and talk it out, keeping in mind this is a very critical decision for the future of Niagara Falls.