Plans for a Seneca Gas Station on sovereign land near the Seneca Niagara Casino are not being received well by some Niagara Falls businesses.
On Monday, the Niagara USA Chamber issued a release saying it could not support the plans of the Seneca Nation of New York to open a 24–bay gas station and store on sovereign land within the City of Niagara Falls, according to The Buffalo News.
The Chamber director of government affairs, Korey Schuler, said the Chamber’s board represents approximately 30 members, including the casino. Schuler said that while the rights of the tribe as a sovereign nation are respected by the Chamber, it believes that a tax-free gas station and convenience store would devastate local convenience stores and businesses, as well as the city and county. According to Schuler, a public statement was issued on Monday in the hope that the Seneca’s would rethink the project.
Not the first time the issue has come up, after the gaming compact was drafted in 2002 it came up as well, said Schuler. Many believe the language of the Class III gaming compact limits what the off-reservation can be used for, and precludes a gas station. Schuler said the issue resurfaced again in 2012 but was tabled. In February, Seneca Nation President Maurice A. John called the new gas station a “right and responsibility,” and is in keeping with the tribe’s sovereign rights.
Although an official announcement has not taken place, construction crews have been announced to begin work soon. The gas station and store is slated to open this summer in the 600 block of Niagara Street.
For a number of years, Carl Hasselback has been fighting against tribal stations. Hasselback is the owner of Jim’s Truck Plaza, as well as a wholesale distributor for diesel fuel and gasoline for White Arrow, a supplier of a number of local gas stations. He says the gas stations are in violation of a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which found that tribal stations are not allowed to sell tax-free gasoline and cigarettes to anyone other than other tribal members. Hasselback’s concern is that the Governor’s office has failed to respond to the plans for the station, after opposition by the city was supported by the state and a proposed plan for a gas station was ended in 2012.