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County planners OK NFTA land purchase next to Falls airport

WHEATFIELD – A $1 million purchase of land adjoining the Niagara Falls International Airport received the go-ahead from the Niagara County Planning Board last week.

The sale of 68.8 acres at 7510 Porter Road requires a subdivision approval from the Town of Niagara. The county board had no objection to the deal.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the airport’s owner, intends to clear the land, not develop it, spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said.

That’s because the purpose of the deal is to comply with Federal Aviation Administration requests to remove hazards around airport runways, such as the trees on the Porter Road land. It’s in the Runway Protection Zone for the Falls airport, Hartmayer said.

That’s why the FAA is giving the NFTA 90 percent of the purchase price, or $900,000. The state is chipping in 5 percent, and the NFTA will provide the rest through fees charged to passengers at the Falls airport.

The seller is Hutch Enterprises, owned by Lewiston businessman John Hutchins.

Hartmayer said there is a signed sale contract, and the deal should close soon.

There are no buildings on the parcel the NFTA is buying. Hutchins owns 72 acres on Porter Road, and is keeping 3.2 acres, which he seeks to rezone from “planned industrial development” to light industrial.

Speaking of rezoning, one is being sought for the vacant former Sam’s Club store at 5535 Porter Road. The boundary between the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara runs right through the building, with 15,000 square feet of the building in the town and 118,000 square feet in the city, county Senior Planner Amy R. Fisk said.

The city portion is already zoned commercial, which, in the city zoning code, allows light industrial and warehouse uses. The town portion is currently zoned general business, which does not allow those uses, so a rezoning of the town portion is needed. The county Planning Board said yes to that.

Fisk said she’s heard the owners are trying to attract a warehouse tenant. “This will allow for reuse of the building,” she said.

The Planning Board also signed off on two new laws proposed in Somerset, including the town’s lengthy new law imposing new duties on developers of wind turbines.

Apex Clean Energy is proposing the highly unpopular Lighthouse Wind project, with as many as 70 turbines to be installed in Somerset and Yates if a state siting board goes along. The towns, with two-thirds of their residents saying no to the project in official surveys, are trying to derail it.

Somerset’s proposed law, the subject of a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. Monday in Town Hal, would require developers such as Apex to pay for baseline environmental and health studies. Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said developers also must study how turbines would affect population of bats and migratory birds.

“We believe the law we’ve put forward is reasonable,” Norris said. “I anticipate the Town Board will adopt this law.” However, he said he doesn’t expect a vote until Feb. 10.

Also that night, Somerset may amend its zoning law to reduce the maximum fine for violations to $250, and cutting the maximum term of imprisonment for zoning violations from six months to 15 days. The county planners approved the idea.

They also approved the site plan for the new Jacob’s Ladder plant in the former Motorad factory on Walmore Road in Wheatfield. The new owner is a local maker of high-end workout equipment.

A proposal from Eric Wisor of Ridge Road, Cambria, to be allowed to place his relatives’ and friends’ used vehicles for sale in his front yard was voted down by the county board, forcing Cambria boards that consider the request to muster a super-majority vote in favor if the idea is to be approved.

Wisor wrote to the county board, “I am not looking to become a used-car dealer,” but the board concluded that’s exactly what he would be.

Also rejected was a request from Douglas Burnett of Lewiston to construct a second house on some rural-residential property in Ridge Road as a home for his elderly parents. The county board concluded that variances aren’t supposed to be granted because of a personal hardship.

A request was approved for Venture Forthe, a Niagara Falls home care agency, to add 31 employee parking spaces at its headquarters, 3900 Packard Road.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com