State Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan on Thursday called on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to reschedule its new public hearing for a controversial hotel and office tower project from the early morning to the early evening when he said more people will be able to attend.
In a letter to ECIDA vice chairman Christopher Johnston, Ryan, a Democrat who represents parts of Buffalo and the Southtowns, urged the agency to move the public forum from 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 25 to 5 p.m. to “encourage more active public participation.”
“The scheduling of public hearings for times early in the morning has become common practice for Industrial Development Agencies,” Ryan wrote. “This leads to a lack of transparency and participation from the public.”
He said the current time “is a very inconvenient time for most people to attend,” pointing out that only one person showed up for the last public hearing on the project, which was held at 11 a.m., when “concerned members of the public are at work or school.” Early morning, he said, is “even worse.”
“It has become common practice for our IDA’s to hold public hearings early in the morning, and this practice must come to an end. They do this for a reason, to ensure a lack of transparency, and to limit the number of people who can attend,” Ryan said.
The ECIDA scheduled the hearing to review Uniland’s application for sales, mortgage recording and property tax breaks for its proposed 12-story tower at 250 Delaware Ave., which would house Delaware North Companies’ new corporate headquarters, a 119-room hotel, additional office space and four boutique retail shops. It would also include a four-story parking ramp for Delaware North employees and hotel guests.
That’s scaled back from the original five-floor ramp proposal and Uniland’s request for a special tax financing package to erase a $10 million funding gap for the larger parking garage. That had generated significant public and private criticism from among rival developers and many in the community, as well as from Ryan himself.
“Public scrutiny helped lead to a scaled-down proposal from Uniland for the 250 Delaware project,” Ryan wrote.