- By Marcia E. Lynch and Star Staff
Legislators, after considerable discussion, authorized the sale of 15 acres of Airport property, located on Warren Road, to the New York State Department of Transportation, as the first step toward relocating the NYSDOT regional highway maintenance, from its current location on Ithaca's Cayuga Inlet. Several Hillcrest Road residents expressed concern to the Legislature regarding how the facility could impact their properties, and maintained they had not been notified about the project. Legislators Amanda Champion and Shawna Black were among those who said they didn't yet know enough about the proposal, including environmental aspects, and Legislator Mike Sigler said he'd first like to see a plan from the DOT.
"A few weeks ago I asked Mike Hall to see if there were other sites at the airport that would be suitable and I reached out to Cornell to see if they might have a site as they own a lot of land there. I would prefer a site East of the Airport on Rt. 13, but that is not County land," wrote Sigler in a letter to nearby residents in response to a bitter email complaining that up to date information about the sale was not available on the County Planning Website. "The state and Mike Hall did meet with the Kennedy-Smiths at their home a couple of weeks ago and Sean Scanlon sent me an email with suggestions on how to make the situation better."
Kathleen Troy, of the Syracuse regional office of the DOT stressed that this action represents only the first step in the process, a contract to permit sale, and that there will be ample opportunity to conduct a full environmental assessment on the project, develop a site plan, and incorporate input from residents, the County, and the FAA. Legislature Chair Martha Robertson pointed out that the DOT needs to own the land before the next steps can take place, and County Attorney Jonathan Wood stated that the County would be an "involved party" in the State Environmental Quality Review that DOT will conduct.
The Legislature by a 12-2 vote (Legislators Black and Champion dissenting) first made a negative determination of environmental significance regarding the land transfer transaction, then authorized sale of the parcel by a vote of 9-4, with Legislators Champion, Black, Sigler, and Henry Granison voting no. (Legislator Rich John was excused.) The land will be sold for its fair market value of $840,000, with funds going to the Airport for use by that enterprise unit.
Sigler said there was little notice that approving the sale would be on Tuesday's agenda, and he contacted concerned residents he was aware of to come to Tuesday's Legislature meeting. He said he voted against the sale because the issue moved too fast through the Legislature, and there was not enough notification, noting that the three other legislators who also voted against the sale were not enough to prevent it.
"I sorry I didn't have the votes to stop or postpone the sale," he wrote. "I'll now be left to negotiate with the state on some of (resident Sean Scanlon's) suggestions and trying to buffer this facility as much as possible from Hillcrest road. When the move 'to the airport' was originally suggested, one would believe that 'to the airport' would mean that. I believed this facility would be much closer to Cherry or even on the other side of the road, but apparently the FAA has quite a few limitations on what can be built near the airport."