AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — A New York City billionaire and owner of Kwik-Fill gas stations is vowing to stop doing business in Western New York. This after the town of Amherst took action to take over one of his pieces of property.
It is a lot that's been vacant for years, creating an eyesore at a busy intersection. Weeds and grass are growing through the gravel of of the lot at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Kenmore Avenue.
A gas station once stood on this property, but it's been vacant for 20-years. The only thing the owner has done is put up these concrete barriers.
But perhaps not for much longer, now that the town of Amherst has been granted ownership through eminent domain.
Amherst Town supervisor Brian Kulpa says the town is now in the process of buying it.
"Ultimately, we have to basically first obtain the parcel. Once we obtain it, then within a year – we will be knocking buildings down and making new green space," explained Kulpa.
But that’s not sitting well with the long-time owner of the lot.
John Catsimatidis is chair and CEO of Untied Refining Company and owner of Kwik-Fills.
"I've ordered my company – by executive order – not to invest any more money in that whole Erie-Buffalo - not to create any new jobs. If their going to be anti-business – let it be like that," declared Catsimatidis. "It's just a matter of principal."
He tells 7 Eyewitness News the town refused to talk to him.
"We asked to meet with them – we asked to talk with them – and you know what this supervisor did – ignore us," Catsimatidis responded.
Supervisor Kupla denies the claim. He says Catsimatidis wanted to buy another vacant home next to his property - a former hair salon. Instead the town bought it and will be tearing it down.
"You devalue a property – you don't pay a lot on taxes on it. You hold it in the current condition it's in – which devalues properties around it and you want to be a martyr," Kupla remarked.
Still the billionaire businessman claims it's his property and he has paid the taxes for the last 20-years.
But when we asked why he hasn't developed it in the last 20-years, Catsimatidis responded saying the town has "no right" to his property.
We also asked Catsimatidis if he's plan to cut future business with the region would effect his current Kwik-Fills. He responded saying quote "I'm not committing."
Kulpa says when Catsimatidis had the former gas station torn down, the property value dropped. He estimates that Catsimatidis has been only paying about $1,100 a year in property taxes. Kupla says the property is assessed at $32,000. The town has offered him $80,000 for purchase.
Once the town completes the purchase of the lot through eminent domain - it plans to create a park as a new gateway to Amherst.
"We are going to turn it into a park," Kulpa noted. "Re-green the space and I think it's going to be a great spot for events, like a farmer's market.
Kulpa says they also want improvements for the bus stop at the corner.
"We want to see better benches and bus stops and transfer station," said Kulpa.
Catsimatidis said he has been working on a "beautification" plan at all five vacant properties he also owns in the area. This includes property on Ontario Street in Buffalo's Riverside neighborhood. He said he will continue to work on the sites.