NFTA, landowner in eminent domain struggle: Medina NY Journal Register, 1/18/07

Improved sight lines needed, authority says

By Jill Terreri

An eminent domain struggle is brewing between operators of the Niagara Falls International Airport and a local landowner.

The struggle is not over a building or even a piece of land. It’s over the tops of trees.

But for the owners of the property, the trees aren’t the issue. If they can’t build a building taller than the shortened trees, they don’t think the land has any development potential at all, according to their attorney.

The land, 31 undeveloped acres next to the southwest boundary of the airport, has been in the Talarico family since 1959. It was acquired by Victor Talarico Sr. with the hope that it would be developed as the airport’s passenger and cargo operations grew.

On Thursday, the NFTA’s Aviation Committee agreed to acquire the easements by eminent domain. The full NFTA board must approve the action on Monday.

The Talaricos’ attorney, Mark McNamara of Hiscock and Barclay, maintains that the NFTA did not follow the law when it began eminent domain proceedings. Specifically, McNamara says the NFTA never said how high the trees and any subsequent development must be to comply with the NFTA’s wishes. He also said the NFTA has not proved the tree-trimming is necessary.

The NFTA is seeking to trim the trees in order to increase visibility for the air traffic controllers and pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the NFTA to improve the sight lines, NFTA officials said.

If the sight lines are not improved, the runway would need to be shortened, according to Aviation Director William Vanecek.

A similar request by the NFTA of the LaSalle Sportsman’s Club was not met with formal protest.

If the Talaricos decide to fight the action, the lawsuit would land in the Appellate Division, which has original jurisdiction over eminent domain issues.

“The Talaricos will have to evaluate their options,” McNamara said.

Efforts to contact Samuel Talarico were unsuccessful Thursday.

Medina NY Journal Register: http://www.journal-register.com