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FY 2015 Defense Spending By State report now available for download.

Protecting Niagara Falls air base could mean buying development rights around it

WHEATFIELD – The next challenge to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station can be seen along the flight path.

The prospect of new subdivisions or other developments sprouting up on farmland around the air base worries local officials.

They weathered different missions at the base and Pentagon budget cuts before, so now officials want to get in front of any threats should the Air Force put Niagara Falls on a shutdown list like it did in 1995 and 2005. Both times local officials and residents persuaded the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, not to close it.

Now, officials want an appraisal to find out how much it would cost to buy development rights on farmland around the base. Holding the development rights would quell any fears the Air Force might have about future development encroaching on the base.

"When we go to the Pentagon, one of the first questions they ask us is if there are any encroachment issues," said John A. Cooper Sr., president of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, a citizens group of air base advocates. "Even housing developments where aircraft are flying over them (could be considered encroachment)."

Niagara County, the Town of Wheatfield, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and the Niagara Military Affairs Council have hired GAR Associates for $30,000 to study how much the development rights might cost.

"Once we find out that information, we can eventually apply for a grant from the state to purchase these rights," Cooper said.

"This whole initiative is to ensure that there is no encroachment as far as development is concerned," added County Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, whose district includes some of the affected area. "We understand a BRAC could come as early as this year, and any encroachment would be a red flag for Niagara."

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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.