Board advises approving private airstrip

News Northtowns Bureau

Grand Island pilot Robert F. Mesmer has drawn a step closer to getting his private aircraft off the ground after the town's Planning Board on Monday recommended approval of a site plan for a proposed airstrip at his Love Road property.

The board gave its unanimous approval on condition that the state Department of Transportation give its blessing to a proposed pond on the property and the lengthening of the runway by 330 feet beyond the original proposal.

The private grass airstrip, which has generated considerable controversy among many of Mesmer's neighbors, would be on Mesmer's 16-acre property.

Final approval of the site plan by the Town Board is now all that remains before Mesmer could begin construction.

Town Supervisor Peter A. McMahon expects that the Town Board will not act on the Planning Board's referral until after confirmation is received from the state DOT about the conditions placed on the recommendation.

"It's not uncommon that the Planning Board will approve something with conditions rather then make an application wait a whole month because they only meet once a month," McMahon said. "(But) until we've got some kind of confirmation that conditions have been satisfied, I don't think it will be approved."

The first issue is whether Mesmer can also proceed with plans to dig a large pond on the same 16-acre site where the airstrip is proposed. The Planning Board raised concerns that geese or other waterfowl could be attracted to such an area, creating potential hazards for the aircraft.

The length of the proposed airstrip is also at issue. Mesmer's original plans called for a 1,470-foot landing strip. That has been extended to 1,800 feet under revised plans. Planning Board members say Mesmer must seek approval from the state DOT for the alteration.

However, opponents of the runway, including Chuck Goris of Alt Boulevard, say Mesmer's plan to lengthen the landing strip was not included in the original environmental-impact statement. "If (Mesmer) wants 1,800 feet," Goris said, "I think he's got to reapply for it."