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New Seneca Nation gas station causes controversy

Posted at 6:26 PM, Dec 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-23 18:26:16-05

The Seneca Nation opened its fourth One Stop gas and convenience store Friday morning in downtown Niagara Falls.  Tribal leaders called it a "milestone" for the Nation, but the city's mayor and local business owners spoke out against the new location.

Mayor Paul Dyster issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

"This type of development is not what the Compact envisioned. When 50-plus acres in downtown Niagara Falls became sovereign Seneca Nation of Indians territory, it was for the purpose of facilitating casino-related development on a scale that would be transformative, to help create a world-class, year-round tourism destination.  I am therefore both saddened and disappointed that the first new development since the construction of the Seneca Niagara Hotel is not a casino-related project like a new hotel or casino, that will bring new business, but a gas station that will instead cannibalize existing off-Compact Land businesses."

Paul Poulos owns the Star Gas and Food Mart on Main St in the city.  He said by not paying taxes on gasoline, the One Stop pays about $0.65 per gallon of regular.  The Nation also doesn't need to pay taxes on cigarette sales.

"It's very unfair," Poulos said.  "People don't realize they patronize that and all the tax revenue--sales tax--that the state of New York is losing with no tax on cigarettes and no tax on gasoline."

The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) has been against the gas station since plans were announced in February.  The organization describes this store as a "tax avoidance center".

"Convenience store owners in Niagara Falls have been watching the construction of this tax avoidance center very closely," said Jim Calvin, President of NYACS.  "Because they know as soon as it opens, tax free sales are going to start happening at that location and that's going to put them at an impossible competitive disadvantage."

Tribal leaders with the Seneca Nation said this gas station is part of a broader revitalization of Niagara Falls and helps make the city a "showplace destination".

""There is a big enough market here for everyone," said Rick Jemison, Tribal Councilman.  "And we're not looking to cut prices down to whatever level."

"As you can see we're competitive and we plan to keep it that way," said Seneca Nation Treasurer Moe John.  "We're not trying to put anyone out of business."