HUDSON–The first item on the agenda of the county Board of Supervisors October 9 was a public hearing prior to the regular meeting on the subject of the proposed seizure by eminent domain of private land county officials say is needed to expand the county airport and improve safety.
Some residents don’t believe the county can support its claim that extending the runway in West Ghent is necessary and they question why the county has not released more information about the project. Their concerns were reflected in a resolution prepared by Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin (D), which called on the board to table any action on the land seizure until questions about the project have been resolved. But when the measure came up at the regular meeting it failed to win the support of the board on a party-line vote.
In a telephone conversation after the meeting County Planning and Economic Development Commissioner Kenneth J. Flood referred to a master plan prepared in 2003 to meet FAA requirements for maintenance and various projects at the airport. One component of the plan was an increased safety zone at the northern end of the airport (a safety zone at the southern end of the airport already exists) to accommodate larger planes and protect people at and around the airport, he said. Two years ago Mr. Flood was asked by the Board of Supervisors to get a letter from the FAA in support of the plan.
The county has offered to purchase the 15 acres for the safety zone from Carmen Nero for $629,000, a price based on an appraisal approved by both the FAA and the state Department of Transportation. When Mr. Nero rejected that offer, the county began its eminent domain process.
Ghent residents Patti Matheney and Michael Schrom, who live near the airport, have raised a number of questions about the proposed expansion including whether there is any documentation to support the Mr. Flood’s claim that the FAA requires the land purchase.
They and others have also challenged the accuracy of data on flight traffic in and out of the airport, and asked for details of the agreement between the county and Richmor aviation, the private company that operates the airport. (A letter from Ms. Matheny appears in this edition). So far the county has not released any of the information and Mr. Schrom and another airport neighbor have taken legal action in state court to obtain the documents.
During the public hearing, Mr. Flood was presented with many of the same questions, some of which he did not answer.
Mr. Nero spoke about how county delays since 2006 stalled his plans for a resort hotel and restaurant, which he said had cost jobs and hurt his business. He encouraged the county to pursue the eminent domain process as a means of resolving the issue.
The County Attorney’s Office is proceeding with the process of eminent domain.
Also at the meeting the board:
•Approved sale of the county’s Certified Home Health Agency (CHAA) to WillCare, a private company, for $75,000. The county agency had been losing money for years, and as of September 2013 had sustained a loss of $324,000
•Amended its weighted voting based on the results of the most-recent census
•Heard Taghkanic Supervisor Elizabeth Young (R) read a certificate proclaiming October 6-12, 2013 as National 4-H Week in Columbia County. Linda Tripp of the Cornell Cooperative Extension facilitated a presentation by members of the local 4H Chapter.