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Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District

January 26, 2021 - 2:35pm

Going on for nearly a year now, COVID-19 has created a dilemma for downtown business traffic in Batavia. But better days are ahead, according to Beth Kemp, executive director of the city’s Business Improvement District.

Kemp, speaking at Monday night’s City Council Conference meeting, reported that one of the BID’s biggest projects is nearing completion.

“We continue to work with Spectrum Charter on bringing free Wi-Fi to the entire BID area,” Kemp said. “We have had several stakeholder meetings over the last year, bringing all of the property owners that will be working with Spectrum on essentially allowing them access to their buildings.”

Kemp said the BID has moved to the implementation phase of installing and connecting of all the nodes in the downtown area to activate the Wi-Fi.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 that has been put on hold until the end of February. Several engineers come from out of state so we have a tentative date to move forward on that,” she said.

Kemp explained that the new Wi-Fi network will feature multiple channel controls – actually five per the agreement with Spectrum.

“One of those channels is designated for the free Wi-Fi downtown and we will have time restrictions,” she said. “So, each will have a maximum of four hours per day to use the Wi-Fi. Certainly, a perk for all residents and visitors here.”

She said that additional channels could be utilized by the City of Batavia Police Department or emergency personnel.

“The BID is also interested in using one of those dedicated channels for possible music downtown,” Kemp said, adding that officials are looking at wireless speaker systems to attach to the light poles. “(Music) would bring a positive vibe.”

Other projects planned for 2021 include:

  • Updated banners and signage, including those that go on the downtown light poles;
  • Snowflakes to go on light poles that are showing their age;
  • Hanging baskets and flowers for baskets;
  • Fall decorations such as cornstalks, pumpkins and hay bales as well as garland options for light poles around the holidays.

Kemp said the BID’s marketing plan will include free advertising opportunities for small businesses, commercials, print advertising, social media assistance and radio opportunities – either at a discounted rate or free to small businesses.

She said that the agency looks to promote Tasty Tuesdays once again to support restaurant takeout orders, and the Downtown Bingo initiative featuring giveaways for participants who complete their boards.

On the events side, she said the BID seeks to continue the scarecrow and wreath contests, and Shop Small Saturday following Thanksgiving.

January 23, 2021 - 9:17am

Update: Jan,. 25, 2 p.m.

Please be advised that Batavia City Council will be holding the 2021/22 budget work sessions on the following dates:

Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. -- Conference Council Meeting, Special Business Meeting &  Budget Work Session (Department of Public Works)

Monday, Feb.  1, 6 p.m. -- Budget Work Session (General Gov’t, General Admin Services, Fire & Police)

Wed., Feb. 3, 7 p.m. --If needed – 3rdBudget Work Session

Monday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. --- Business meeting, introduce budget ordinance

Monday, Feb 22, 7 p.m. -- Conference Meeting, (Last opportunity to make budget amendments)

Monday, Mar 8, 7 p.m. -- Adopt Budget and Related Resolutions.

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The process of achieving a 2021-22 spending plan for the City of Batavia is expected to move forward on Monday night with the introduction of resolutions to schedule public hearings on the budget ordinance and establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.

City Council is scheduled to meet in Conference and Business sessions at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

In a memo to City Council dated Jan. 14, Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski indicated that public hearings are necessary prior to any execution.

Tabelski is proposing that the budget and water rates resolutions, along with a third resolution dealing with amendments to the Business Improvement District Plan, be considered at Council’s Feb. 8 Business Meeting and that public hearings be set for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 – the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting.

Earlier this month, Tabelski proposed a 2021-22 tentative budget – a $27.7 million all-funds spending plan – that calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate (from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value). According to a resolution on the table for 2021-22, the amount to be raised by taxes is $5,864,597.

Tabelski has said that a combination of revenue losses due to COVID-19 and decreased sales tax and state aid have resulted in a $1.2 million gap compared to the previous fiscal year.

In the area of water and meter fees, the resolution introduces a local law to establish new rates, with water rates and quarterly meter service fees going up by 3.5 percent and quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Changes to the BID Plan, outlined in red in Council’s packet of information, indicated that the BID has about $260,000 in its capital infrastructure fund to be used for capital projects. Three such projects earmarked for 2021-22 are downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000).

Other amendments show that the BID’s district assessment charge (a revenue source) – excluding debt service – can’t exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the BID. Thus, it is currently estimated that that figure is $58,000, and the BID’s assessment is estimated at $1.810873 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Other items of note on this Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

Tabelski is suggesting that Council look over the plan and issue it for public comment, and then move it forward to the March 8 Business Meeting where she and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will review the public comments with Council, prior to the board adopting the plan and sending a certified copy to the New York State Office of Management and Budget.

  • A request by the City of Batavia School District for the City to support the district’s application for funding that the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a NYS Education grant program.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski wrote that the partnership is designed “to increase the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color.”

The memo indicates that the City will support the program, provide “parent engagement and education, mentorship, college and career pathways, and other evidence-based strategies,” provide display space on bulletin boards and brochure racks, provide ADA-accessible public meeting room space, provide mentors at the City’s Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program, and provide homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth.

  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski explained that proposals must meet at least one of two national objectives – at least 51 percent of the persons who would benefit from implementation of the plan are low- or moderate-income persons or the plan addresses a slum or blighted area in the community.

She wrote that the City is reviewing possible projects that align with its strategic plan, primarily infrastructure ventures related to water, wastewater and facilities.

Tabelski is suggesting that both the My Brother’s Keeper and the CDBG resolutions be moved to the Business Meeting this Monday night due to timing issues.

November 9, 2020 - 5:32pm

publicmarketjun82018.jpg

The treasurer of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, which recently concluded its 46th season providing locally grown produce and other food items, today said that Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. has reached out to her to set up a meeting in the near future.

“That’s a start,” said Sharon Brent, speaking by telephone from her Middleport home. “Mr. Jankowski said that (Interim City Manager) Rachael (Tabelski) would be contacting me.”

Brent is owner of Schwab Farm Market in Gasport and has been involved with the farmers’ market since its inception.

The future location of the public market is unclear in light of the fact that the city is looking at the Alva Place parking lot as the desired site for a new headquarters for the Batavia Police Department.

The farmers’ market has operated at that location since 2016, when it entered into an agreement with the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District to have one large market at one location – instead of two or more sites in and around the city.

Prior to that, the market was located at the Kmart parking lot for about a decade before moving to a lot at Batavia Downs from 2006 through 2015.

Previous reports that the market moved 11 times in 15 years referred to its early years, not recently, Brent said.

“We originally started in front of Super Duper, where the (Tonawanda Valley Federal) credit union is now and we used to be right where Wendy’s is, in the Angotti’s (Beverage Corp.) parking lot and way behind the (former) Engine House Restaurant – near a skating place on some gravel,” Brent said. “That was the reason we left the city and went out to Kmart and the Downs, because we wanted a stable location.”

Brent said the only reason the market returned to the city is because the BID requested a consolidation – with the stipulation that there would be just one market at one location.

“The BID used to run the farmers’ market that was on Thursday at Angotti’s and then they moved to Alva Place, and it was run by volunteers,” Brent recalled. “(Former BID Director) Don Burkel approached us and proposed Downtown Batavia Public Market in one location. He said we can’t be at the Downs and at Alva Place.”

So, the area vendors hit the road to Batavia on three days (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays) instead of the two they spent at Batavia Downs, Brent said.

She said that after a couple years, BID officials asked the GCFM to “run all aspects of the farmers’ market as it was getting difficult to find volunteers.”

“Of all the locations over the 40 some years, that (Alva Place) still has been the best place as far as ability for people to get to,” she said. “It has anything that you as a business owner would like in a location and it fit all of those things.”

Brent said that five years ago, there never was a discussion about a police station going there.

“That was never brought up,” she said.

Things have changed since then, however, as the city has enlisted Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to conduct a feasibility study into the construction of a new police facility on the lot north of Alva Place and west of Bank Street.

Brent said the GCFM board of directors is “definitely open to other options” and welcomes the opportunity to provide input to city officials.

“It is what it is. I’ve done well. I run a good business and have done well no matter where I’ve been,” she said. “But, as far as the residents of the city, to me they should have a voice in what they would want.”

Business Improvement District representatives said their organization continues to support the farmers’ market and they understand why Brent and her colleagues wish to stay at the Alva Place lot.

“We see the value in it and we support the public market,” BID President Don Brown said. “To us, it is an event Downtown that brings people Downtown, but it’s not a BID event. They’re their own entity.”

Brown called the Alva Place site “a fabulous location and they’d be crazy not to want that.”

“My perception of the situation is that this has been a long-term plan for the police station – it has been going on for several years here," he said. "They’ve had all kinds of studies and votes, and all kinds of ideas of where to put it and why to put it.

"The public market was never going to be there permanently from what I recall, unless they were going to build a building …if they got the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) money and the BID wanted to bond something like that.”

Brown said the BID spent $25,000 on a feasibility study in an unsuccessful application for a DRI award.

“We didn’t get it; so, the BID definitely decided that they didn’t want to bond it," he said. "It was too much and they couldn’t tell us how much traffic the market was going to bring or whether the market was going to quadruple. So, why create another tax for something that we’re unsure of. That was the long side of that.”

BID Executive Director Beth Kemp, who sits on the GCFM board, noted that her agency is not as involved as it was in the past, but “we definitely support them as with any event that happens in the downtown.”

“We understand the vitality that a public market brings to the Downtown, and we’re here to assist in any way,” she said. “We don’t want to see the public market go away from Downtown, and we’re eager to come up with other options if that’s the way it has to go. I know that our board has tried to generate a couple of alternative ideas, but so far nothing substantial.”

Kemp said the consensus of GCFM directors is that they wish they could stay put.

“Yes, ideally they love that location, they love the demographics that they serve which has increased since they’ve been there and the walkability,” she said. “Out of all their locations, that is the most ideal; that is the one they love the most.”

File photo of Genesee Country Farmers' Market by Howard Owens.

November 6, 2020 - 5:29pm

Don’t go grouping Genesee County with five other rural counties outside of the heavy-populated hubs of Erie and Niagara when it comes to private-sector job losses over the past five years.

That’s one of the themes emanating from a Nov. 4 story in Buffalo Business First that reveals the findings of a federal report, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, pertaining to the Western New York business climate prior to the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the BBF article, Genesee County “is an exception to the generally gloomy news about the six outlying counties” – the others being Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Orleans and Wyoming.

Genesee County, per the QCEW, created an additional 718 private-sector jobs between 2015 and March 2020, a period that culminated before the adverse effects of COVID-19 took hold. That represents a 4.4-percent increase.

Citing the BBF story, “The six outlying counties (including Genesee) collectively lost 4.1 percent of their jobs during the 2015-20 span, a period in which the national economy was prospering. A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished” from the six counties.

The number jumps to a 5.7-percent decline in employment for those other five counties when removing Genesee’s performance.

Steve Hyde, president and chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, contacted today said he’s not surprised by the report’s favorable news.

“In Genesee County, the continued collaboration among the various levels of government with our strong private sector is resulting in economic growth through capital investment and jobs,” he said. “The results shared since 2015 are visible at Genesee County’s eight shovel-ready business parks and the sustained growth of many Genesee County companies.”

Hyde contributed the growth to investments made by the county’s major employers as well as smaller businesses that have expanded their operations.

Some of those major employers include HP Hood, O-At-Ka Milk Products, Liberty Pumps, Wright Beverage and Tompkins Bank/Insurance.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said the QCEW report validates that Genesee County “is indeed a great place to work and live.”

“We are fortunate to have excellent companies in our backyard that are growing and investing right here in Genesee County,” Landers said today. “The combined efforts of the GCEDC, Batavia Development Corporation, Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, and Chamber of Commerce have helped to attract and retain many of these private-sector jobs, and have us positioned for continued growth for years to come.”

The BBF story called Genesee County “the one exception” to a downturn in job growth in the rural counties when compared to increases in the number of private-sector businesses in Erie and Niagara counties, per the QCEW study.

“A total of 4,303 private-sector positions vanished from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties … while at the same time Erie and Niagara counties were adding 11,845 private-sector jobs, representing an increase of 2.7 percent,” according to the BBF article.

The story also pointed out that Orleans and Wyoming counties "essentially broke even" during the five-year span.

October 28, 2020 - 8:56am

While unable to match the specific years with the locations, Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Treasurer Sharon Brent on Tuesday confirmed that the operation featuring the “fruits” of local growers’ and merchants’ labor has been quite nomadic over the past decade and a half.

Brent, asked to comment on Market Manager Elizabeth Carr’s assertion that the market has moved 11 times in 15 years, fired off close to that many sites -- and agreed with Carr, who spoke at Monday night's Batavia City Council meeting, that moving around so much is counterproductive.

“We were out at the (Batavia) Downs and at Kmart for quite a few years. While we have been under the city’s (oversight), we were moved 11 times in 15 years. I have been to every single spot they’ve moved us to,” said Brent, a Middleport resident who owns Schwab Farm Market in Gasport.

The list of farmers’ market locations, according to Brent, include next to the “kiddie stand” at Batavia Downs (for years), the Kmart parking lot, Batavia Downs parking lot, the Alva Place parking lot (previously), the former Super Duper site next to Washington Towers, the parking lot where Wendy’s Restaurant now sits, the Angotti Beverage parking lot and in a lot behind the Genesee County Courts Facility.

“We used to be in this (Alva Place) parking lot when we had an afternoon market that was from noon to 6 p.m.,” she said. “Since then we’ve moved all around the city … and you don’t build a market that way.”

And Brent echoed Carr’s hope that City Council would keep the farmers’ market at its current location: the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.

“Of all the places we have been in the city, other than where Wendy’s is right now, this is the best spot we’ve been at – as far as customers liking it, parking, traffic, everything,” she said.

Brent said she wasn’t about “to buck” the city but said she’s talked to many residents who “can’t believe they want to put a police station here.”

When asked if the farmers’ market carried any weight into City Council decisions, considering it uses the parking lot at no charge, she said her organization was not given an opportunity for input.

“We were told this is where the police station is going to be,” she said. “Did they ask us if we wanted it to be here? No. I don’t live in the city, but I can see that they want you to play nice.”

She said that city residents should have a say in the matter, something that City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said has happened by virtue of a police facility task force that convened in 2015.

“We set up a police building committee years ago of citizens of the community and we left them alone to make recommendations. They recommended a Swan Street location and the second choice was Alva Place parking lot,” he said. “The first choice fell through as the owners didn’t want to sell it to us, so the second location on that list was Alva Place.”

Jankowski said City Council is following the task force’s recommendations.

“It’s property we already own … and we will need it in another year or so when we start construction on that building,” he added. “City Council makes the executive decisions and run the City of Batavia through the city manager. If they have a problem, contact City Council.”

Jankowski said he is disappointed in the farmers’ market stance.

“We notified everybody and the time to make mention of it was several months ago before we expended a lot of resources into that direction (a feasibility study) to put the police department there,” he said. “Even so, it’s a public safety building, it’s public property that we own, and we allow the market to have an event there every year. They fill out an event application and it gets approved because the lot is not being used right now.”

He said he didn’t think there were any promises made to the market, adding that its attempt to attract a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant fell through.

The thought of the city veering off the course of placing the new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot is not a good idea, Jankowski said.

“If we had to spend $500,000 for a (privately owned) building lot, that would reduce the amount of money available for the building itself,” he said.

Jankowski said the city has offered to help the farmers’ market find a suitable permanent location, and welcomes the conversation.

“I think it’s actually a good thing that we’re having this conversation because it tells me that our downtown is thriving and it tells me that property in our downtown is at a premium and that people want it because it is a good thing,” he offered. “But I think the farmers’ market is a little out of line because they have been getting the use of that property at no cost and now we need the property for a public safety building and now they’re upset about it.”

Brent said if the market has to move again, she hopes that the location is in the center of the city and “not off the beaten path.”

A call to Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, for comment on the BID’s role in the future of the farmers’ market was not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Kemp also sits on the Genesee Country Farmers' Market Board of Directors.

The 2020 farmers’ market season opened on June 5 and the three-day operation (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday) concludes this week.

July 8, 2020 - 11:55am

ellicott_place_page1_image1.jpg

Ellicott Place, a $2.3 million renovation of the Save-A-Lot supermarket building at 45-47 Ellicott St., has reached the local planning board phase – a juncture that sets the stage for the owner of the facility to begin construction this summer.

“Once the special use permits have been approved, which are allowable as part of the BID (Business Improvement District), the final step will be the issuance of building permits,” Victor Gautieri, president of V.J. Gautieri Constructors Inc., said today. “From there, we would be looking at a mid-August, possibly late-August start.”

The Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night is expected to issue a recommendation on the company’s special use permit site plan and downtown design review application to create 10 apartments on the vacant, 11,600-square-foot second floor of the building.

The board has set its Zoom videoconferencing meeting for 7 o’clock.

V.J. Gautieri’s application then goes to the City Planning & Development Committee’s meeting on July 21, when it will rule on a special use permit to support a restricted residential use of the structure, which is located within the Central Commercial District.

Restricted residential uses are permitted in the C-3 district with the issuance of a special use permit.

The project is one of several in the City to be partially funded by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The $1.15 million DRI award covers half of the total cost.

Gautieri said the plan is to construct seven one-bedroom and three two-bedroom market-rate apartments upstairs and further develop 18,000 square feet of first floor commercial/retail space.

Currently, the Save-A-Lot grocery store occupies around half of the ground floor, and future commercial/retail tenants on the first floor are anticipated.

Other improvements include a two-stop interior elevator, two stairwells, new exterior windows, doors, veneers and roof membrane.

“A separate entrance to the west of the Save-A-Lot entrance will be put in (for renters), with a corridor leading to an elevator lobby,” said Gautieri, adding that renovations will be made to the west side to make it more attractive for potential commercial enterprises such as a store or offices.

He said he is “hopeful and optimistic” that the apartments will be rented in short order after completion.

“There have been multiple studies concerning the need for downtown housing and all show that there is a definite need,” he said. “I see no issues with renting them. They will be of very nice quality with modern codes. We believe there is a good market for downtown living.”

Gautieri said that apartment dwellers would be required to obtain parking permits from the City of Batavia for the Court Street lot, something that is allowed in the C-3 district.

Gautieri said his company will be coordinating and doing much of the work, which includes exterior work initially. He noted that V.J. Gautieri will be soliciting bids in an “open and competitive” process for specific trades, including Minority and Women Owned Businesses Enterprises and veteran-owned businesses.

He expects construction to take about eight months to complete.

The building was constructed in 1968 by V.J. Gautieri as a Montgomery Ward store for developer Stanley R. Gumburg of Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, the Batavia firm purchased the building, a move that brought the Super Duper supermarket chain to the city.

It was sold to a partnership in Buffalo before Gautieri bought it again from a mortgage lender while negotiating a lease with Save-A-Lot Food Stores Ltd.

Drawing above shows the north, south, east and west elevations views as depicted by DEAN Architects of Depew.

May 13, 2020 - 4:03pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, the Batavia Development Corporation and the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District appreciate the response of small businesses to a recently conducted online survey.

With the anticipated resumption of manufacturing and construction services in the Finger Lakes Region on May 15, the business organizations are looking to collaborate in developing a plan to assist small businesses on Main Streets in city, towns and villages across Genesee County to help them ready for their reopening.

"Governor Cuomo's NY Forward plan provides a path for Genesee County and the Finger Lakes Region to reopen intelligently and safely," said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde. "The input of our small business community, manufacturers and local leaders shows that re-opening safely is a shared priority, and our economic development team supports that mission."

Conducted the week of May 4th, more than 100 businesses in various sectors, including dining/hospitality, entertainment, fitness, medical services, nonprofit, professional services and retail completed the on-line survey.  Among the highlights:

Challenges to Reopening: Businesses see getting customers back into their doors (63 percent highest or next highest), access to PPE (46 perceny highest or next highest) and developing a safe reopening plan (41 percent highest or next highest) as their biggest challenges to reopening.

Financial Assistance: 63 percent of businesses applied for either the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or Payroll Protection Program (PPP) programs. Of those that applied, 50 percent had received EIDL assistance, and 82 percent had received PPP assistance.

Interest in Business Supported Programming: Respondents support a coordinated Genesee County Shop Local campaign (87 percent) expressed interest in safety plan development and training (45 percent).

Along these lines, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will host a Zoom Webinar on Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. featuring Paul Pettit, Public Health director for Genesee County. 

The topics to be covered during the webinar include the status of the County’s reopening; formulating a reopening plan for your business; sanitation and social distancing tips at your workplace; and, reopening guidance from the Genesee County and Orleans County Health Departments.

The webinar will be accessible at the following link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82534812321?pwd=d1FBUmhQUGxuaWNUY2xqZzlQdkFZdz09

Meeting ID: 825 3481 2321

Password: 295833

Or dial by your location: +1 929 436 2866

May 12, 2020 - 10:21am

This year has been a difficult one for the business community, to say the least, but the president of the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District is encouraging member store owners to keep their chins up while the organization adjusts to the changing times.

“We have gone through some changes in the past 18 months, but have emerged with a strong board (of directors) that is cohesive and really ‘into’ downtown,” Don Brown said on Monday.

Brown, co-owner of Charles Men’s Shop on Main Street, believes that the BID has reached a tipping point as far as how to meet its 198 members’ needs and to appeal to younger entrepreneurs.

“BIDs themselves are facing an uphill battle in a lot of ways as some people are down on BIDs, which are funded with property owners’ tax money,” Brown said. “But, when you see sidewalk improvements, downtown flowers and landscaping – that’s all because of the BID.”

He said that the emergence of the Batavia Development Corporation, which secures downtown grants and loans, and the recent $10 million NYS Downtown Revitalization Award has compelled BID board members to rethink their focus.

“We didn’t have those before – grants for storefront rehabilitation and the state throwing millions of dollars at us,” he said. “That’s a game-changer for us.”

As a result, Brown, who has been president for a year and a board member since 2016, said he would like to see the BID promote more events in the City and develop a marketing plan that “lets people know that it is the BID that is sponsoring this.”

“Our common goal should be to market our skill set to the 200 members. We’ve been too rigid in the past and we need to do things to attract the younger people who are business owners to make their downtown better,” he offered.

Brown said that a plan is in place to conduct “meet-and-greet” sessions and work has already started on getting free Wi-Fi downtown.

“Our BID board has resolved to be a more social organization -- having meet and greets a couple times per year to promote more participation,” he said. “Most recently, we contracted (with Spectrum) to have free Wi-Fi installed throughout our downtown district for all the youth. We also want to have music (via speakers at various sites) downtown.”

Previously, Brown and BID Executive Director Beth Kemp spoke to the membership via a video on the BID website that replaced their Annual Meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Things will look different going forward but we will get through these challenging times and will be stronger for it,” he said.

On the video, Kemp announced the agency’s award winners for the 2019-20 year:

  • Business of the Year – Freed Maxick accounting firm.
  • Volunteer of the Year – Danielle Fleming, an employee of Batavia Downs Gaming.
  • Community Partner of the Year – Lisa Casey, confidential secretary for the City of Batavia.

Kemp also reported that Batavia attorney Peter Casey has been elected to the BID’s Board of Directors.

Financially, the agency made a profit of $8,047 last fiscal year and, as of March 31, had total assets of $330,453.

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Per its website: Comprised of property owners and tenants, the Batavia Business Improvement District Management Association Inc., is a nonprofit organization with a mission to finance improvements and services beyond those provided by the City of Batavia, and fund an operational budget for the purpose of revitalizing and promoting business activity.

May 11, 2020 - 10:49pm

The Genesee Country Farmers Market Inc. suddenly has become quite a lightning rod for discussion at Batavia City Council meetings.

City Council tonight gave its go-ahead for the market to conduct business again this year at the east side of the parking lot on Alva Place and Bank Street, but not before a 25-minute debate that focused on the practice of allowing food truck vendors to conduct business on the market grounds and at other downtown locations.

Council members, at their April 27th meeting, tabled the nonprofit’s application to operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30, citing the need for clarification of the organization’s address and financial arrangement.

The next day, Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, which supports the GCFM, provided an email from Sharon Brent, the market’s treasurer, which appeared to answer Council’s questions.

Fast forwarding to tonight, several Council members brought up other issues concerning the market, with the subject of food trucks dominating the talking points.

“I don’t know if any of you have received any comments from local restaurateurs but I have in the past in regard to the food vendors that are allowed to come into the farm market and sell food there as far as prepared food like the food truck, things of that nature,” John Canale said. “Some of our restaurants that are in the BID district are concerned that these people are coming in and they’re able to sell food at lunch time, which is actually taking away lunch business from a lot of our downtown restaurateurs.”

Canale said restaurant owners, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, are “fighting for business” and food trucks will just make it that much more difficult for them. He went on to say that the farmers’ market is “a wonderful thing” but still called for eliminating food vending trucks at the market.

Robert Bialkowski then asked a series of questions about the farmers’ market operation – How much of the parking lot can they use, what does the $50 membership fee cover, who is the president and vice president, and how much is spent on advertising?

He also suggested that Council should treat event applications in the same way they do resolutions.

“I really feel that we should handle it like any other business item,” he said. “If we all agree to move it from conference to business, then at the business meeting we would vote on it. That’s just my personal opinion."

City Attorney George Van Nest said he was of the opinion that Council might be imposing stricter requirements upon the farmers’ market compared to other requests.

“Traditionally, it’s been a situation where the City has looked at a limited set of information,” he said. “I just have a slight concern that we’re going fairly far afield here for a particular event application and treating this one a little differently than we would other event applications.”

The conversation returned to food trucks with Council President Eugene Jankowski mentioning that he received an email from Kemp on March 11th asking about the possibility of restricting food trucks from downtown on specific days of the week -- with the exception of the farmers’ market. He shared news that Buffalo and Rochester have recently passed a measure designed to limit food trucks parking near restaurants.

After Rose Mary Christian noted that food trucks have to pay sales tax, Jankowski suggested putting the issue back into the BID’s hands.

“That to me would be more of an internal BID issue than it is for Council to get involved,” he said. “These (applications) are a way to give us a heads-up so that we can provide a service to all the people who are going to be there as well as the community to make sure that we’re not conflicting … that we’re not blocking their progress.”

Canale agreed that the matter should be handled through the BID.

“I think it’s a matter of the BID realizing that a lot of these downtown restaurants are challenged by having more food vendors come downtown and be able to sell food downtown at the lunch hour that aren’t having to pay the BID assessment (as well as property taxes),” he said.

Patti Pacino, who along with City Manager Martin Moore serves on the BID board, said “if these owners are concerned, I’d rather they take it to the BID board than try to take it to City Council, because we’re only going to turn around and take it back to the BID board.”

Jankowski then suggested that Moore contact Kemp to define the areas of concern and discuss it again at a future Council meeting.

“Maybe (we need to) modify the City Code for the food vendor truck to not be right in the middle of the BID area where they’re paying taxes or the assessment, and on top of that, they’re parking right in front of a restaurant,” he said.

That prompted a sharp response from Christian.

“Actually, it’s called competition. Center Street Smoke House has a food truck and he’s all over. He not only pays sales tax but he pays property tax …,” she said. “I think you’re opening up Pandora’s Box if you decide to do this. Like I said, it is competition and I know about the food truck because I had the first one in Batavia.”

She added that the City could face a lawsuit “if you’re going to continue on with this nonsense.”

“Nobody makes anyone go to those trucks; nobody makes anyone go to a restaurant. It’s a choice – freedom of choice,” she said, prompting Al McGinnis to respond in agreement.

"We should stay out of it," he said. "I think Rose Mary is right.”

In the end, Council approved the application but instructed Moore and Pacino to address Kemp’s email as a courtesy to the BID, an entity with close ties to the City.

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