Plans to build a housing project along Wilkins Road west of Erie International Airport are at least temporarily on hold.
Owners of neighboring properties are fighting planned development, and they have a strong ally.
FAA officials said the residential development does not meet its guidelines for the 20-acre property on the east side of Wilkins Road.
The property is owned by the Erie Regional Airport Authority, which in November 2020 agreed to sell the land to developer, Erie NLA IV Real Estate Holdings, for $400,000.
The authority has since notified NLA IV that it cannot legally proceed with the sale due to the FAA’s opinion that the property cannot be used for residential development.
The sale agreement is now in mediation.
Schemes: duplexes and townhouses
NLA IV plans to build six farmhouse-style duplexes and 116 six-unit cottages along the east side of Wilkins Road, according to a land development plan approved by Millcreek Township supervisors in September.
Supervisors in June rezoned the property to accommodate the high-density residential development.
The farmhouses closest to the neighboring single-family homes will be built. Houses will be built behind them, according to the development plan.
Jay Juliano of NLA IV told supervisors this summer that ranch homes are expected to rent for $1,300 to $1,400 per month and that cottage rent will be $1,100 to $1,200.
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The supervisors did not take into account the FAA’s opinion that the property could not be used for residential development in approving the developer’s land plan or rezoning the property. Township attorney Mark Shaw told supervisors that it is the supervisors’ responsibility to determine whether development and zoning plans meet township rules and regulations.
FAA objects to housing development
The airport purchased the Wilkins Road estate in 2001 on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration with $3.5 million in federal grants.
The property, which is located west of the airport runway, is located in the airport’s noise reduction area.
The Orchard Park Estates mobile park previously located on the property was removed when the airport purchased the land. The federal grant paid to relocate 41 tenants.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines established in June 2014 for airport property funded by these grants include a mandate that the properties “must not be used for residential purposes,” according to a July 29 letter to Erie Regional Airport Authority legal counsel from Rick Harner, director of the Aviation Administration. Federal (FAA). Harrisburg Airports District Office.
“Although the 20.6 acres in question are not currently within the mean day/night sound level of 65 decibels (DNL), if the FAA permits residential development here and it is discovered that the property in question is again incompatible with airport operations.. it may have to (Erie Regional Airport Authority) to take action to remove the residential development,” Harner said.
“Furthermore, because the FAA had already funded the acquisition of this land for noise compliance purposes, we found the possibility that the ERAA would once again have to displace a residential community on this site contrary to the original intent of the federal grant,” Harner said.
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Based on that view, the Erie Regional Airport Authority notified the developer that it could not legally proceed with the sale of the property, according to a report dated September 28 to Horner by Timothy Ziziola, the real estate attorney for the Erie law firm representing the authority. The FAA provided an email from Zieziula to Wilkins Road residents who shared it with Erie Times-News.
While the Wilkins Road property could be sold as per the airport’s master plan, real estate firms have been contracted to evaluate the marketing and sale of the property for offices, retail, agriculture or facilities, Susan MacDonald, an FAA environmental specialist, said in an April email to residents. . Development.
“Residential development was not an option,” MacDonald said.
The property developer said the FAA’s views on the noise-reducing properties were contradictory. Juliano submitted to the town of Millcreek another document from the FAA that states that when decibel levels are below 65, “residential land and related structures use (compatible) without restriction.”
Airport CEO Derek Martin said noise from Erie Airport has fallen below the average sound level of 65 decibels that the Federal Aviation Administration uses as a standard for aircraft noise not compatible with residential development.
“As Derek Martin has said on several public forums, the property is outside of 65 dB controls, so all land uses apply. This is straight out of the FAA regulations,” Juliano said.
Juliano said the FAA does not have the authority to determine local land uses. This design is up to the local authorities, he said.
Juliano told Milkcreek supervisors this fall that the disposition of the sale of Wilkins Road property would likely end up in court. No lawsuit has been filed.
“There is one step before that in real estate contracts, agreements signed before they go to court. That’s where we are now,” Giuliano said Thursday.
The contract first requires mediation to attempt to resolve disputes or claims.
Annette Mossberg, who has lived in Wilkins Road since 1987, said the ownership of Wilkins Road west of the tarmac is not suitable for residential development.
“The FAA purchased the property primarily because it was not suitable for residential use,” Mossberg said. “And from what we have learned, the position of the FAA has not changed.”
Wilkins and other area property owners contacted the FAA after announcing the sale of Wilkins Road land last year.
Wilkins Road Development:Residents object to the sale of airport property
“This is not the first time that there have been problems with this drug. We know what the FAA and airport regulations are,” said Debbie Penny of Wilkins Road. Penny has lived in Wilkins Road since 1977.
Other neighborhood residents urged town officials to vote against the rezoning of the property and reject the development plan due to traffic, wildlife and other concerns. A petition signed by 80% of neighboring property owners was submitted to town officials earlier this year.
Others have expressed concerns about potential flooding if the Wilkins Road property is developed.
“The Wilkins Run Stream, which extends behind our subdivision and drains most of the area’s storm water into the lake, has had significant erosion and significant maintenance costs for the town over the past few years,” said Timothy Nagely, president of the Homeowners Association in nearby Wolf Run. On September 28th a letter to Milkcreek moderators.
“In 2018, the Comprehensive Township Plan defined this stream as a ‘flood-prone area’ that should be designated for protection.
Juliano says the multi-family residential development is a major focus of the comprehensive Embrace Millcreek plan and that the Wilkins Road development meets all township requirements.
“Embrace Millcreek is addressing the provision of multifamily housing in Millcreek because there is such a huge demand for it,” said Juliano. “This development makes sense with Millcreek Township’s values and needs, not the desires of a couple in the community.”
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He said the borough has determined that the residential development of the property complies with local regulations and addresses concerns about traffic, flooding, wildlife and wetlands.
“Milkrick checked everything, all the neighbors’ concerns,” said Giuliano.
Contact Valerie Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.
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