By Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
The Town of Niagara is considering making zoning changes to a disused hangar at the former U.S. Army Reserve Center (USARC) site to help lure an airplane manufacturing facility to the area along with roughly 600 new jobs.
During Wednesday night’s Town Board work session, representatives for Stavatti Aerospace, a Wyoming-based aerospace manufacturer that designs and produces military, commercial and general aviation aircraft, said it is looking at the USARC site as a potential landing spot to create a prototype production facility. The overall project is said to be around $26 million.
The site in question was formerly an 18-acre single parcel that was sold to the town in 2019. The former USARC site was then subdivided, with 15 acres being sold to Reger Holdings, a private developer, and another 3 acres reserved for a proposed First Response and Preparedness Center, which would be operated by Niagara County.
Before procedures can continue, however, the company is asking the town to re-designate the zoning for the sight from “light industrial” to “heavy industrial.”
The project cleared its first hurdle with the town on Tuesday, when the planning board recommended the approval of the rezoning request and made a negative declaration on the project’s environmental review.
Stavatti’s legal representatives, Matthew Fitzgerald and Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) of Phillips Lytle LLP, were on hand for a short overview presentation and to answer some questions. They said the company was looking to knock down three buildings on the site that are currently in a state of disrepair. Other existing buildings will be reused.
Deputy Supervisor Charles Teixeira asked what the project might do to local traffic in the area. Patrick Fitzgerald replied, “For those familiar with this site, it was formally the U.S. Army Reserve Center, which once posted approximately 2,400 employees on a given day. We’re projecting in about five years time to have 596 employees onsite, which would be staggered in three different shifts, which themselves are staggered internally to offset any potential traffic issues. Even if that wasn’t the case, even if we weren’t doing that staggering, we’re still significantly less than what the cycle was designed to handle at the capacity.”
Teixeira also asked whether the facility would bring with it more air-traffic to the area. Patrick Fitzgerald replied that, as a prototype facility, there would only be between three-to-four aircraft on site and they don’t anticipate there would be increased air traffic, at least in the beginning. However, he added, “With any business, things like to grow and expand; so possibly in the future.”
Board member Richard Sirianni indicated his early support for the project. “It’s about time some company comes in – and hopefully yous are the one – to take advantage of that long runway at that airport; because there’s not a lot around it; there’s room to build, and I’m hoping this all works.”
“Our client is thrilled to be here, which you can see by the presence here today,” Matthew Fitzgerald said, gesturing to the seven-or-eight Stavatti representatives in attendance. “We’re really working hard to move this forward very quickly.”
On Thursday, Supervisor Lee Wallace said a public hearing for the project would be held Tuesday, Oct. 20.
When asked for his thoughts on the project, Wallace said he was certainly optimistic, but he and other officials are just taking it one day at a time.
“It sounds exciting and I think it will help not only the Town of Niagara but Niagara County, the air base – everything. If it comes to fruition, and it’s everything they say it’s going to be, it should be a win-win for everybody,” he said. “We’ll be behind it, we’ll support it as long as everything is done properly and everything is done in a timely fashion, but we’re not going to rush to do it.”