An appeal Monday night from Buffalo Sabre Patrick Kaleta didn’t change the minds of Hamburg Town Board members.
The board voted, 2-1, to change a zoning code allowing an Orchard Park business to move to the former Walmart at McKinley Parkway and Big Tree Road.
Kaleta and his family members and the foundation they created want to buy the former big-box store and convert it into two NHL-regulation ice rinks, a field house, educational center and a home for the Foundation, Helping Individuals To Smile, or HITS.
They claim Hamburg improperly changed the zoning code earlier this year to allow Worldwide Protective Products of Orchard Park to relocate to the former Walmart store.
But Hamburg officials said the company would have been allowed to move to the Walmart building without the change in the code, which allows light manufacturing in a C-2 commercial zone. The code was ambiguous and had been interpreted by the code enforcement officer to allow the manufacturing. All the board did Monday night was clarify that light manufacturing is allowed in that zone, they said.
“What I want to do in the community of Hamburg is give every kid in Hamburg and the surrounding area the same opportunities I had growing up,” Kaleta said.
Worldwide has 225 employees, 47 who work in Western New York, said company President Matt Stucke. He said there are a number of companies in Hamburg that have a similar operation.
“This is not about the two projects,” Town Planner Drew Reilly said. “I suggested we change the code.”
The company bid $2 million for the building, while the Kaleta group offered $1.3 million. A Worldwide attorney said the company has not yet closed on the purchase. Kaleta said his first offer was meant as an opening for negotiations. He and his family members filed a notice this spring that they intend to sue the town.
The town also is defending a challenge to the way it changed the code. Town Attorney Kenneth Farrell said repealing the change, then following the proper procedures to adopt it again Monday night should correct the procedural issues, settle litigation and save the town money.
But it appeared that the legal issues over the change in the code are not over. Terrence Connors, attorney for the Kaleta group, said he plans to challenge the board’s action on Monday. Kaleta went door-to-door in the area around the property, seeking signatures asking for a “super majority” vote on the change, which would have required a unanimous vote by the board.
The town attorney said the signatures were vetted by the town assessor, and there were not enough signatures, and he said the action the board took was not subject to a super majority. Connors disagreed.
Councilman Joseph Collins voted against the measure. He said the repeal of the old law should be done in a separate motion, and he questioned the board’s motivation.
“I’m going to ask for a complete investigation,” Collins said. “This stinks.”