The owner of the company buying the old Walmart building on McKinley Parkway in Hamburg says he acquired the building through a legitimate business deal, and not because town leaders changed the zoning code.
Matt Stucke, an owner of Worldwide Protective Products, described as “outrageous” the claims of Buffalo Sabre Patrick Kaleta and his allies that the town improperly changed the zoning code so that Worldwide could locate to the former Walmart.
“This was a bid process and it was 100 percent Walmart’s choice who they wanted to sell the building to,” Stucke said.
Worldwide Protective Products offered $2 million for the property; Kaleta and his group offered $1.3 million.
The Orchard Park company’s offer was made even though light manufacturing with more than four employees was not allowed in the zone. But Stucke said that was not an issue for him because of the low-impact manufacturing. He said it is very common to amend zoning codes, and the same thing occurred at its North Carolina factory, which is located in a former Kmart.
“We did ask if it would be a possibility” to rezone, Stucke said. But he added “there was no deal with the town beforehand.”
But the attorneys for the Kaleta group, Terrence M. Connors and Patrick D. McNally, maintain the town used improper procedures to amend the code and helped one business over another.
When Kaleta, several family members and a foundation they created offered $1.3 million for the 130,000-square-foot building, they said they intended to transform it into a center for underserved youth. They envisioned two NHL-regulation ice rinks, an adjoining field house and indoor sports arena, locker rooms, a computer lab for children, pro shops, a coffee shop, and day services available to youth regardless of their financial means, according to court papers.
Now the Kaleta group has informed the town it intends to sue.
“I think it is a nice thing that Kaleta is trying to do and hope the best for him and his organization,” Stucke said, “but getting all sue-happy because you lost a bid due to not bidding high enough is a big waste of his time, and he should use that time to move further to finding a facility that will suit his needs.”
The Hamburg IDA granted Worldwide mortgage and sales tax exemptions, and a 10-year property tax abatement under its guidelines for adaptive reuse projects.
The company has 35 employees in a 30,000-square-foot building it leases on North Benzing Road in Orchard Park.
He said the company plans to add 10 to 15 employees after it moves, and it intends to add many more than that.
Stucke said it plans to lease part of the Walmart building to Bounce Magic, a business offering bounce houses and children’s parties, and is looking for a tenant for the remainder of the site.