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LEGAL ACTION THREATENED ON AIRFIELD, GARAGE

South Cheektowaga controversies involving a fence at Buffalo Airfield and a maintenance garage in the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve could end up in court.

Resolutions threatening legal action in both issues were approved unanimously Monday night by the Cheektowaga Town Board.

The board said it would not allow Buffalo Airfield, a small Clinton Street airport on the town's border with West Seneca, to erect a perimeter fence that would interfere with access to a drainage ditch behind homes on Suzette Drive.

Another measure contends that the state Department of Environmental Conservation did not subject plans for its Reinstein Woods maintenance garage, under construction off Como Park Boulevard, to analysis under the state Environmental Quality Review Act.

"If it does not comply with (the environmental act), necessary legal action may be taken . . . against the DEC to compel it to comply," the board's resolution declared.

A 50-to-60-foot-wide swath of airport-owned land, bordered by a drainage ditch, runs behind about 15 homes on Suzette, off French Road. With the airport's permission, the homeowners -- whose lots are only 110 feet deep -- have kept the land mowed and have planted gardens and built sheds on it for 30 years.

Recently, the airport announced plans to erect a 6-foot-high chain-link fence 1 foot inside its property line to improve airport safety and security. The fence, town officials say, would deny neighbors not only access to the land, but also to the drainage ditch about 50 feet inside airport property.

The town installed the drainage ditch in 1970 after backyard and basement flooding of nearby homes, establishing an "easement by prescription," officials said.

"The town has acquired certain rights which cannot be abridged by the airfield. The fencing of the drainage easement would block the maintenance and make the town unable to maintain this easement by prescription," Deputy Town Attorney Michael J. Stachowski wrote in a report on the issue.

The town wants the fence moved back to the far side of the drainage ditch in the area behind Suzette. "The fence itself should be of a wood lattice construction, not chain link, so that it will do what it should do -- screen airport activities from the residents," Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said during Monday night's session.

On the Reinstein Woods controversy, Johnson said a standard environmental review of the DEC's new maintenance shed would have addressed unresolved issues, including the impact on the nature preserve and the difference in activity levels between a garage devoted solely to maintaining Reinstein Woods and one serving DEC facilities in three counties.

The garage will house vehicles and equipment for a six-member DEC maintenance crew working in Erie, Niagara and Wyoming counties. Only two of the employees are full time.

Neighbors in the town's Bellevue area are opposed to the garage, arguing that a three-county facility runs counter to the idea and purpose of a nature preserve.

"These issues need to be reviewed; the DEC needs to come to the table," Johnson said.

In other business, no opposition was heard during a public hearing on a request by Ryder Transportation Services to rezone land on Walden Avenue for a truck-leasing center.

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