Eminent domain may be necessary for Painted Post Airport improvements — The Corning (NY) Leader, 1/12/05

By Jeffery Smith

The Erwin Industrial Development Agency may use eminent domain to acquire land needed to make improvements to the Painted Post Airport.

The IDA held a public hearing Tuesday night to hear opinions on the plan.

Two affected land owners accused the board of making lowball offers for their properties.

The IDA has agreed to pay $588,000 to purchase a 41-acre lot just south of the airport from John Vine. The agency purchased the airport land from Joe Costa for $378,000.

"There is a 10-fold difference in the value (the agency) paid to the other land owners and what you are offering," said Byron Paris, who said he has been offered $12,000 for a six-acre parcel near the airport.

John Sullivan, who owns a 22-acre parcel targeted by the eminent domain, called the situation "insulting." Sullivan said he has been offered $48,000 for his parcel.

"We have been offered between $1,500-$2,000 an acre for our land," Paris said. "Compared to the $15,000-$20,000 per acre (the agency) paid for the other land to be used for the proposed improvement."

Wayne Wegman, a town aviation consultant, said the purchase offers were based on appraisals conducted of each property.

Erwin Town Attorney David English said the start of the eminent domain proceedings does not mean the agency plans to use the power.

"We would like to come to an arms-length agreement with (the property owners)," English said.

Paris and Sullivan each said they would be willing to negotiate a sale price for their parcels if the negotiations were done in good faith.

"Just treat us fairly." Paris said.

The parcels are needed to complete a renovation of the airport that will bring the facility to Federal Aviation Administration standards.

The 40 acres to be acquired from Vine will be used to move the landing strip away from Interstate Highway 86. The Federal Aviation Administra-tion has mandatory setbacks for airstrips near interstates.

The relocation of the runway is part of a major renovation project expected to begin at the 75-year-old facility - previously known as Costa's Airport - in the spring. Improvements will convert the airport into all-season facility.

Upgrades will include building a 3,000-foot paved runway, adding lighting and security systems and expanding maintenance operations. The balance of the federal funding will be used to pay for the upgrades.

In all, federal money will pay for 95 percent of the project. The remainder of the cost will be split between the state and the Erwin Industrial Development Agency, which owns the airport.

The Corning Leader: www.the-leader.com