Lancaster Town Zoning Board asked to determine legality of Lancaster-Buffalo Airport expansion
By Safe Aviation Coalition of Lancaster
Feb 18, 2010, 16:59
A group of Lancaster residents, the Safe Aviation Coalition of Lancaster [SACL], has filed an appeal to the Town of Lancaster’s Zoning Board of Appeals [ZBA], asking the board to determine whether the extensive expansion of the Buffalo-Lancaster Airport is legal under the town’s zoning laws. A similar request, made on December 18, 2009 to the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer, Jeffrey H. Simme, has not been responded to by either Mr. Simme, or the Town Attorney, John Dudziak, Esq.,
The Buffalo-Lancaster Airport is a private airport located at 4343 Walden Avenue, east of Pavement Road. The members of SACL, who are largely concentrated to the south of the airport, have concerns regarding the noise, safety and privacy issues associated with the facility’s operations. It is their contention that the Lancaster Town Board and Code Enforcement Officer have repeatedly violated the town’s zoning ordinance by allowing the airport to substantially expand its size, capacity and functions. SACL’s attorney, Arthur J. Giacalone of East Aurora, NY, provides the following explanation of his clients’ claims:
Neither the current Town of Lancaster zoning ordinance, nor the zoning code in effect when the airport began its operations in the mid-1960’s, allows construction and operation of an airport or airstrip. The facility is, at best, a “non-conforming use.” Under the town’s zoning laws, a non-conforming use may not expand by more than twenty-five percent (25%) or extend beyond the lot occupied by it at the time it became a non-conforming use. In 1989, when the town’s current zoning law was enacted, the airport occupied approximately 25 acres of land, had a runway about 1,900’ long and 25’ wide, and included a hangar large enough to store 10 airplanes. By 2006, the airport covered 94 acres, its runway had been enlarged to 3,200’ by 75’, and it had three hangars with the capacity to house 44 planes. In 2007, the Town Board and Federal Aviation Administration approved plans that would allow the airport to expand to 143.1 acres [570% larger than its size in 1989], extend its runway to 5,500’ [110% longer than its 1995 length], and substantially increase the number and size of aircraft housed on site.
Despite the fact that the airport’s consultants have reminded Town of Lancaster officials that the airport and surrounding area is not zoned for use as an airport, the town officials have repeatedly approved proposed expansions, and have expressed support for large, taxpayer-funded projects. Additionally, although the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency is required by its enabling statute to take into consideration local zoning laws when considering financial aid requests, it has approved multiple Buffalo-Lancaster Airport applications for real property and sales tax exemptions.
At no time have the zoning laws of the Town of Lancaster been enforced. At no time have the rights and concerns of the residents living near the airport, or under the flight paths of the airplanes that utilize the Walden Ave. facility, been taken into consideration or protected.