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Grand Island Town Board: Travel plaza ban passed

Sat, Apr 7th 2018 06:55 am
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Grand Island Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said residents were so adamant that the Town Board not allow a Love's Travel Stop location on the Island that they were ready to leave town if the truck stop empire set up shop here.
"I had people calling the office saying, 'I'm moving. ... It's going to embarrass the town,' " McMurray said.
Monday during its regular monthly meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously to approve local law intro No. 1 of 2018 that would ban travel plazas anywhere on Grand Island. During public hearings on the law, no one spoke in favor of the business, and the board was praised for its opposition to the truck stop by residents.
Dave Reilly of Whitehaven Road said, "If I were interested in starting a business like that and profiting off of a town without consideration for what the public wants, what would I do? I would try and divide the town, I would try and divide the board, I would try and create uncertainty in the minds of those who have to make the decisions. And I would use fear. And I would encourage people to be worried about the circumstances of following your convictions. And so with that in mind, I want to say 'Thank you' to the board for not falling into those traps, for not succumbing to fear, for not straying from the convictions that the town has put forward, that the community has put forward."
Roger Cook of West River Road, on behalf of Riverside Salem United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ and the Sierra Club Niagara Group, both which have come out in opposition to the Love's plan, praised the board as well.
"I want to thank the board for your deliberations and your courage in addressing this issue," Cook said, "and safeguarding the environment of Grand Island, the stewardship that we are asked by our creator to observe, and for keeping the quality of life on Grand Island, that I think that most residents really care about. So thank you for your courage."
Barbara Berry noted in 1833 a group of businessmen from New York City and Boston came to Grand Island and stripped the town of its trees, primarily the valuable white oaks. "The trees were gone. The Island was stripped," Berry said.
"Now another company wants to come and put up something that we would not be proud of," she said.
Writing the law began after Love's, an Oklahoma company, made an informal presentation to the Planning Board in February for a truck stop at Whitehaven Road near Alvin Road. The law covers the whole Island, not just the property Love's eyes, and McMurray added the law covers all truck stops, like Pilot and Flying J.
"It's not just Love's. The reality is we have a huge thruway going through the town, so another group could come and we would have to be just as diligent," McMurray said.
McMurray acknowledged that this isn't necessarily the end of the fight. Love's could still push ahead with plans in order to establish a truck stop at the Whitehaven Road exit of the I-190.
"They're rich. The owners of Love's have, like, $6 billion," McMurray said. "If they really want to fight us, they could make life miserable. But at the same time, we run this town. They don't. So we feel secure."
McMurray believes the statutes are on the town's side if the developer wants to push ahead, saying, "under the law the government is allowed to regulate the use of space. You're not entitled to the highest and best use of the land."
McMurray said Love's is asking for a multi-use operation.
"They want there to be restaurants and a gas station and this and that and the other thing. For any multi-use on Grand Island, you have to get approval for it," McMurray said. "He just can't put a multi-use, multi-purpose, giant facility. And there's nothing in the law in any state in the union where towns can't zone those types of facilities."
McMurray said the travel plaza ban and opposition to Love's does not mean Grand Island is anti-business.
"There's a scale of reasonableness. The more unreasonable it gets, the more public scrutiny it's subject to," McMurray said, adding that truck stop enterprises are "very large, multi-use, who historically have had spillage, historically who have had different types of criminal activities occurring at these places. So that's more in the scope of reasonable scrutiny by a public entity. We're not denying him electricity, we're not denying him any type of business use, we're denying these types of complex, multi-use facilities."
Councilman Pete Marston, said after the meeting that the Island is pro business, "but not willing to sell our soul."
"This is something of a whole different scale right in the middle of our Island. By giving them the rights to do this, you'd be chasing away lots of other types of business," McMurray added. "Part of government is the ability to balance different business interests, and if we give them the right to do this, what would it do to our businesses on the boulevard? What would it do to our business on Love Road? What would it do to our restaurants? What would it do to our local establishments. It'd be significant impact."
"I believe in the free market, but you can't be abused by people who try to take advantage of your town as well."
He added, "You've got to remember, this thing would be so big, it'd literally would become the focus of the Island. If the Island was an eye, it would be a large lit-up pupil 24 hours of the day. That would be the light from this thing."

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