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Wheatfield considers zoning regulations around Falls airport

WHEATFIELD – The Wheatfield Town Board is considering adding federal regulations on land use around Niagara Falls International Airport to its zoning ordinance.

In a public hearing Monday, planning consultant Andrew C. Reilly of the Wendel engineering firm told concerned residents, “If you’re a property owner in a residential house, this law will not affect you.”

But anyone planning a development that requires approval from the town Planning Board will have to make sure that in addition to the regulations already in the town’s zoning code, existing Federal Aviation Administration rules are followed pertaining to building height, glare, radio transmissions and other characteristics that might interfere with planes.

The airport shares its runways with the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, but Reilly said the regulations would be in effect even if there were no military operations there.

“We’re not taking away anybody’s right to develop their property,” Reilly said.

Richard Muscatello, a member of the town Planning Board and of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, said the zoning amendment was necessary because of fears that the Pentagon might use allegations of “encroachment” on air base operations from outlying development as an excuse to make a third attempt to close the base.

“To say the air base is dictating would be a false statement. We are open to their concerns,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said.

Muscatello said the air base, Niagara County’s largest employer with some 2,500 jobs, generated an $88 million payroll last year with $147 million in purchases of goods and services.

“The air base has been a good neighbor and obviously brings a huge economic impact,” said John A. Cooper Sr., chairman of the military affairs council. “I commend the Town of Wheatfield for taking a proactive approach to this.”

In the face of questions about the impact on their homes from two residents in the “airport protection area” defined by the FAA, Cliffe said action would be delayed until next month. “There’s plenty of opportunity to make comment,” he said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com