Request to build hangar at private airstrip irritates neighbors

News Northtowns Bureau

A Grand Island resident who successfully petitioned the Town Board in January for a permit to develop a controversial private airstrip now seeks a variance to construct a 3,000-square-foot aircraft hangar on his Love Road property.

Like the airstrip before it, this latest proposal by Robert F. Mesmer is generating significant dissent from neighbors, who plan a large turnout when the issue is presented during Thursday's meeting of the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

"Our whole point is that area isn't zoned for that type of structure," said Kristine Lavango of Love Road. "We're not opposed to his building, but he should keep it within the town code."

According to plans, Mesmer, a licensed pilot, is requesting a variance to permit construction of a 24-foot-high, 50-by-60-foot hangar on his 16-acre property at 2548 Love Road. Two garagelike buildings now exist there.

"I'm going before the Zoning Board Thursday just basically to show them the location of it, what it's made of and what it's used for. I don't anticipate a problem," Mesmer said.

Zoning Officer John A. McCarthy said the town code does not permit an "accessory structure" such as the hangar to exceed 15 feet in height. Further, the code provides that residents must seek a variance for a garage that could hold more than three cars.

Mesmer said he plans to use the hangar to store his aircraft and a motor home. He called the hangar a "large garage" that will be a wood structure with a foundation and vinyl siding. It would be located close to the center of his property.

"The size of the hangar he's proposing is the size of two two-story houses put together. That's huge," Lavango said. "He already has a very large structure on his property where he keeps race cars and a helicopter."

After Mesmer makes his presentation to the five-member Zoning Board of Appeals, residents will be permitted to address the board.

Residents who are opposed to the variance say they will not use the meeting as a sounding board for their discontent with the recent Town Board decision to allow the airstrip.

"It's not their concern," said Chuck Goris of Alt Road, who lives down the road from Mesmer's property.

"Our concern is this building he's going to ask for a variance on is totally out of character with the neighborhood. It doesn't belong, and it isn't necessary," Goris said.

Mesmer disagrees.

"The town government has been very helpful, but it hasn't bent the rules for me at all," Mesmer said.

But unlike the debate about Mesmer's request for a special-use permit for the airstrip, which first was denied by the Planning Board only to be overturned by the Town Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals is autonomous, and its determination is binding.