Area Residents Mobilize to Oppose Expansion
By Megan Irene Kretz
For Saratoga TODAY
Editor's Update: June 9, 2014 - By a unanimous vote (one abstention), the Saratoga County Buildings and Grounds Committee, chaired by Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza, rejected any expansion to the Saratoga County Airport. As such, there cannot be any other proposed expansion by the airport for 10 years.
MILTON— The fight to preserve their homes and neighborhood brought over 100 residents to the Milton Community Center on Monday night. The meeting was organized in response to recent proposals for expansion at the nearby Saratoga County airport. After learning about potential home acquisitions and land easements, Rowland’s Hollow West resident David Burton spearheaded the effort to relay information.
On the recently created website (www.stopairport.com), residents can view the airport master plan proposals, contact their local elected officials, sign a petition, and find meeting information. “After the May 20meeting at the firehouse, everyone was surprised and devastated, so we also created a Facebook page and website to spread the word,” Burton said.
During Monday’s meeting, Burton urged on attendees to take a stand. “Our mission tonight is to band together and contact our supervisors to prevent even the ‘no build’ option from happening. That no build option would still require 14 partial property acquisitions,” Burton explained.
Former Town of Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth offered suggestions for talking to county supervisors. She asked the crowd to question if the county may be pursuing expansion in order to eventually sell the airport. She also urged residents to consider if the airport should even remain open. “Is it benefitting the community at all?” Southworth asked.
Town of Milton Supervisor Dan Lewza updated the crowd on the next steps in the expansion approval process and urged them to make their voices heard. “Two weeks ago, when everyone showed up to the firehouse meeting, it showed that we’re in unison. It showed the county that we care about this issue,” Lewza said.
While speaking to the crowd, the Supervisor expressed his frustration over some recent county decisions. He cited an incident in which a plane clipped a tree near the airport a few years ago. The FAA reportedly looked into removing 16 trees, but Lewza claims the county eventually clear-cut 70 acres, which he says was much more than necessary. “If I was your supervisor four years ago, I wouldn’t have let this happen,” Lewza remarked.
The sentiment amongst those in attendance was unanimous.
As Rowland’s Hollow East resident Anita Harris explained, “Our neighbors don’t want any more property to be seized.” Molly Rosenthal of Ichabod Lane, expressed concern for all of the time and money neighbors have poured in to their homes. “Young couples have recently bought homes in the area and have put a lot of work in to their properties. They may be offered “Fair Market Value”, but what is that exactly?” she asked. “I’m all for expansion, but not when it’s going to displace families,” Rosenthal remarked.
One of the meeting’s organizers, Dave Morris, remembers when Geyser Road was just a dirt thoroughfare. “People bought homes under the assumption that the airport would remain small,” he said. “The reason I became involved is simple – you don’t throw people out of their homes,” Morris continued.
Supervisor Lewza is a member of the county’s building and grounds committee that will vote on the proposals next week. Lewza urged all concerned residents to make every effort to attend the meeting at 3 p.m. on June 9 at the McMaster Street County Building.
“I am tired of the county dictating to residents of the municipalities that make up the county how to live their lives,” Lewza told the crowd. On June 9, the committee will hear a presentation by McFarland Johnson, the engineering firm that conducted the study for the new master plan. If the committee approves any of the proposals put forth by McFarland Johnson, they must then be endorsed by the full Board of County Supervisors before becoming eligible for FAA funding.