Long-delayed plans for a gas station next to Scajaquada Creek in Black Rock will be vetted by the Planning Board today. .
Tops Markets’ proposal for building a gas station in the parking lot of its Amherst Street store won support from the city’s Environmental Management Commission, which could be the key to the Planning Board’s approval.
Tops has proposed a gas station at the store for about eight years with little encouragement from City Hall, which has rejected previous versions of the plan. Tops has said that introducing a gas station at the store will help its business there survive, while several neighbors, in public meetings and in writing to the board this spring, opposed the project.
The environmental management commission’s letter of support might be enough to persuade decision-makers that a gas station does not threaten the creek.
“If it meets all of the environmental concerns, I would be supportive of it,” said North Council Member Joseph Golombek, whose district includes the store.
In a letter to the board, Joseph A. Gardella, a University at Buffalo chemistry professor and chairman of the commission, wrote that Tops’ proposed actions to mediate the environmental impacts are appropriate.
“We have no concerns with the spill procedures provided by Tops’ legal counsel subsequent to the meeting as they appear to be appropriate and comprehensive,” Gardella writes.
The commission had rejected two other gas station plans from Tops at the store at 333 Amherst St.
“With the systems they’re putting in, it’s going to be pretty safe,” said Arthur Robinson Jr., an environmental management commissioner who will present the commission’s letter at the Planning Board meeting, which begins at 8:15 a.m. today in Room 901, City Hall.
Tops has been working on resolving issues about the gas station’s potential impacts on the creek, a nearby recreational pathway and other concerns from people in the Grant-Amherst neighborhood. The store also changed the design in response to feedback from the Planning Board during a meeting on June 19.
A lawyer for Tops said the store had adopted Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s design for the site and agreed to a yearly analysis of storm water that runs into the creek at Riverkeeper’s request, but the organization is not yet persuaded.
In a letter to the Planning Board dated Nov. 2, Riverkeeper’s leadership wrote that a gas station is not “the highest and best use for this site,” though it acknowledged that it has not seen Tops’ latest site plan.
The environmental organization is concerned about how construction at the site and the presence of underground storage tanks would impact the creek and urges the city to require further studies before a vote on the project is taken.
Tops is putting in an oil and gas separator for the parking lot, even for parts it doesn’t own, said lawyer Daniel A. Spitzer.
The store is adding green space and trees to protect the view from the Jesse Kregal Pathway, which runs along the creek, and is also adding picnic tables.