It is estimated that from 225 to 250 people attended Monday evening’s town board public hearings held at the Lancaster Opera House. Approximately 50 Lancaster residents spoke against the text change and 11 for the text change (some pilots). Approximately 50 non residents spoke in favor of the text change and the great majority of those were pilots using the Buffalo-Lancaster Airport facility.
Despite those voting in favor of the text change outnumbered SACL and its supporters, SACL was better organized and had but a handful of spokespeople addressing the town board and focusing on why the text language should not be approved by the town board. It was also obvious that the Lancaster resident attendees far outnumbered the airport supporters.
SACL and supporter public hearing comments - opponents
It should again be mentioned that while SACL favored the Colecraft Building code text change, it took exception to the airport text language being bundled with the Colecraft Building code text change which would make the airport a conforming use and eligible for further expansion and determined to become opponents of the code text change.
• Requested the Section 1 and section 2 proposed text changes be split up at board determination time as In stark contrast to the proposed Section 1 text change the Section 2 change brings with it VERY serious consequences for the residents and Town of Lancaster; namely further airport expansion.
• The Buffalo-Lancaster Airport (BLA) became a non conforming use in 1989 when the code was changed to reflect that the area where the airport is situated was then changed from a zoning of AGR to LI (Light Industrial District).
• If the Section 2 text change were adopted it would change the airports zoning status from the current “nonconforming use” to a “conforming use” and that is a very serious change because the intent and legal limitations of a nonconforming use would no longer apply to the airport. It would become a conforming (permitted) use.
• Nonconforming use may be enlarged up to 25%, provided that no enlargement shall exceed 25% of the size of the use at the date the use was rendered nonconforming. The airport has ten times over exceeded that expansion condition and has been in violation of the 1989 code since then.
• Requested the Town Building Inspector determine that a use not specifically listed is a similar use to others enumerated in that district. In making a determination that a use is similar, he shall first determine several criteria. This authority is granted under Section 50-44e (Administrative Procedures) of the Town Code that states that the Zoning Ordinance shall be administered by the Building Inspector and Enforced by the Building Inspector. Should the Building Inspector make a determination that an airport is a use as defined in ‘commercial activity’ then SACL can pay a $150 fee and appeal to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for relief.
• Airport attorney Adam Walters claims the Town Board approved the airport’s 2006 Master Plan and even provides the relevant Resolution as Exhibit G. in their recent Special Use Permit application. The following issues are not mentioned in Mr. Walters’ letter:
• The Town has never been in possession of the 2006 Master Plan (until Mr. Walters appended it to his recent letter), even though the May 2007 Resolution erroneously states that it has been submitted. So how could the Town Board execute a valid approval of a Master Plan they never had? And, The Resolution does not actually approve the whole 2006 Master Plan, including a runway extension and the ability to handle corporate jet traffic, contrary to what Mr. Walters implies in his letter. Rather it separates out one building, some utility improvements, and a taxiway connection for approval from the Master Plan.
• Detailed analysis on questionable land transfers profiting.
• Once again, the airport wants taxpayers to foot the bill for their legal challenge against town residents.
• The Town of Lancaster did not sign any agreements that we can locate with the FAA. BQR was the only participant that agreed to terms of the FAA. The town does not have authority to make decisions for BQR or any other company. BQR chose to accept terms of grant completely and wholly on their own. Non-conforming issue, special use permits and whom they chose to borrow money from were all decisions made by BQR. The town cannot be held accountable for any agreements BQR chose to make with an outside concern. The town does, however, have the right to deny use of excess property over original 25 acres for aviation use.
• The airport now has:
One 10 bay hanger
One 16 bay hanger
One 24 bay hanger
One 18,000 square foot bulk hanger
Approximately 10 tie downs
Airport plans to add:
Four more 10 bay hangers
59 tie downs
4 JET tie downs
Six 5600 square foot bulk hangers
One 18,000 conventional hanger
One 12,000 square foot storage building
Support equipment for turbine powered aircraft
If they succeed, total aircraft housed at this facility could reach 180 plus.
• SACL questioned why the public should not believe that combining the two sections into one hearing and then having but one determination is nothing more than a clever ploy to get airport approval for further expansion; and/or political posturing to coerce Supervisor Fudoli in voting approval for an expansion he does not favor in order to not jeopardize the sale of the Colecraft Building?
• Debunked the ‘snarky’ remarks made by people referring to SACL as whiners, obstructionists, NIMBYS and worse and that they should have known better when the town was approving development site plans knowing full well that a near defunct airport was in the process of becoming a FAA reliever airport and as such entitled to millions of dollars of grants to expand the airport. Commended the Hangauer and Lemaster families for bringing the size and scope of the operation to the public and the resulting adverse impacts to residents and the communities well being.
• The airport purchased and took off the tax rolls over 100 acres of industrial zoned property. They received $14 million (their number) in federal and state grants money and pay only $36,600 in total property taxes. They were earlier assessed at $4.2 million, had it reduced to $3.2 million, reduced to $2.2, then threatened to take the town to court and had it lowered to $1.8 million because the town did not want to pay the legal costs involved.
• On top of getting $14 million in federal and state grant funds (taxpayer funds), BLA also received three LIDA’s that included at least one PILOT. The previous LIDA Board granted those IDA’s with no job creation listed on the applications but that it would allow the airport to sell gas cheaper than its competition.
• Reaffirmed to the pilots that the opposition to the airport text change was to derail further expansion, not to close down the airport or to diminish its current operation. The public hearing on the airport code text change had nothing to do with the current airport operation. If they have been receiving information from BLA management or their attorney that this was about shutting down the operation they were being misled and manipulated. They well respected what the pilots contribute to Lancaster’s well being and assured them their participation was not to shut the airport down.
Next: (3) Proponents have their say.
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