BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) – Concerns are growing about a proposal to build a truck stop across the road from Sperr Memorial Park in Big Flats, off Interstate 86. Onvo, the Scranton-based company that would build it, says its “travel plaza” could see up to 1,300 cars and trucks every day. A petition to stop the project that was launched Thursday has more than 1,000 signatures and counting.

Joe Roman, the Executive Director of the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency, says the County has a mandate to develop that land, and has been trying to do so for nearly 15 years. Mr. Roman says the travel plaza will be an economic boost for the county.

“These types of plazas, we have some that are to the west of us in Steuben County. We also have some of these facilities in the east of us in Tioga County. Right now, Chemung County is not benefiting from these types of entities,” said Roman.

“This allows travelers not only from Chemung County, but also from outside the county who are traveling through Chemung to stop to purchase food, to purchase gasoline, both cars and trucks. That results in additional property tax for the county but most importantly sales tax for the county. So not only are you adding a new service for county residents, but you’re also adding revenues to the county and the town and also the school districts” Roman added.

From Sperr Park, there is another travel plaza 35 miles to the Weston I-86 in Kanona, and 23 miles to the east in Wilawana. The town of Erwin, just 14 miles away to the west, is currently reviewing a proposal from a different company to build a truck stop on the site of the former Ames shopping plaza.

District 1 County Legislator Lawana Morse says she is not opposed to building a travel plaza off I-86. However, she says placing it next to a park throws up several red flags.

“I do see value of the travel plaza myself, I am a trucker’s daughter,” said Morse. “My concerns come from the mom perspective of, there’s a playground, there’s kids, you know, it’s off the road a little bit, but there’s always a chance of the kids running out when you have a lot of traffic coming down to a travel plaza of sorts.”

“What I’ve also heard from a lot of community members is a lot of women come here, and they use the trails for running and such because it’s one of the safest places that they feel,” Morse added. “When you have a lot of traffic coming in, you don’t know where these people are coming from. You don’t know their backgrounds, and it can be concerning, especially with the proximity to the highway and how quick it would be for somebody to potentially grab a kid or somebody else and run off.”

Joe Roman told 18 News he does not agree with concerns that a travel plaza could increase safety risks for people who use Sperr Park.

“You know, my perspective on this, I do not believe that they have that cause of concern for some of the things that you say, you know, people are going to be running across the street and bothering the park.”

Sperr Memorial Park is dedicated to fallen New York State Trooper Andrew J. Sperr, who was killed in a shootout with bank robbers in 2006 after noticing a suspicious vehicle.

“We certainly don’t want to disrupt the current memorial, but by the same token, you know, as I mentioned before, this has always been slated for development in that park” Roman said.

18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina also reached out to County Legislator Michael Saglibene. Sperr Park and the proposed travel plaza are in his 2nd District. Mr. Saglibene says he is keeping an open mind as the project is in its early stages. He added the safety of his constituents is his first priority, and that he also has environmental concerns. Mr. Saglibene was unavailable for an interview Friday, but in an email he said:

“Keep in mind the County Legislature has the ability to stop this project by not transferring this land to the IDA if we deem it to not be a good project for the Big Flats community.”

Andy Westbrook said he runs in the park regularly and brings his children to enjoy the playground.

“This park is a great place for a lot of local families, not just in Big Flats but around the area,” said Westbrook. “It’s quiet, it’s kind of off the beaten path, a lot of runners, people walking, fishing. So, I think having a lot of that truck traffic and all the busyness here might deter from that a little bit.

If you would like to weigh in on the proposal, you can attend Monday’s meeting of the Chemung County Legislature at 7 p.m. in the Hazlett Building in Elmira.

Would you like to voice your opinion on the proposal to build a travel plaza next to Sperr Park? Let us know by emailing