BIG FLATS, N.Y. (WETM) – The Chemung County Legislature is considering a new proposal to build a Travel Plaza off I-86 next to the Elmira-Corning airport, and across from Sperr Memorial Park. The park honors the life of New York State Trooper Andrew J. Sperr, who was killed in a shootout with bank robbers in 2006. The park also includes a playground, picnic area, lake, and walking trails.
The proposal was introduced by Joe Roman, the Executive Director of the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency. Onvo, the Scranton-based company that would build the new 24-hour plaza, says it would include a drive-through restaurant, indoor food options, a gas station, electric vehicle chargers, and showers. Onvo says its plazas typically serve up to 1,300 cars and trucks per day.
Lawana Morse, Chemung County Legislator for District 1, was the only legislator to raise a question about the proposed plaza’s proximity to Sperr Park.
“Joe, have you talked to the community to get feedback regarding a truck stop across from a park that is well used by kids and community members?” Morse asked Chemung IDA Executive Joe Roman. Mr. Roman said there have been no public meetings so far, but there will be. He said the County has been trying to develop that plot of land for 15 years.
“The understanding at the time was, that was very good to put Sperr Park there. It was a great thing to do. But by the same token, the county’s mandate was always for development in that park,” Roman told legislators.
18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina reached out to legislator Lawana Morse for additional comment. She sent us the following statement:
This is a rock and a hard spot situation.
On one hand, I have long thought some sort of facility such as the Onvo Travel Center is much needed at the airport exit. Traveling through Chemung County on 86, there are no accommodations for the trucks. This would be a great benefit economically to the area.
But there’s the question of at what cost to the quality of life of those utilizing Sperr Park. As a mom, I see warning lights. As a woman, I see warning lights. Having a truck stop across from a playground and walking path with secluded areas, really throws up those red flags for me.
This is something the community really needs to weigh in on.
I appreciate the work from the IDA to market that parcel of land. I appreciate moving forward with the initial intentions of development. I see the value in a travel center for the area. I simply have concerns with that particular area being used for such.
Mr. Roman mentioned other lines of development and what would be the community thoughts on those if a factory or manufacturing facility. Those don’t carry the same risks or level of traffic as a travel plaza.
Chemung County Legislator – District 1
18 News also reached out to County legislator Michael Saglibene. He represents the 2nd District, where the Travel Plaza would be built if it is approved. Mr. Saglibene sent us the following statement:
I do have concerns with the proposed travel center near Sperr Memorial Park but at this early point I am keeping an open mind. The presentation at last nights meeting was informative but I still have unanswered questions. My first priority is the safety and well- being of the residents of the 2nd District and the Town of Big Flats. Sperr Park is an asset to our community and the potential disruption to our environmentally focused areas is of great concern to me.
Chemung County Legislator – District 2
18 News also reached out to Mark Margeson, Chairman of the Chemung County Legislature. He sent us the following statement:
We are at the beginning stages of the development of a potential project for that location. The proposed fuel stop is in the planning process to see if the location is suitable for the project.
The Chemung County IDA has entered discussion with the company to see if it is a possibility.
Early in the development.
Chairman, Chemung County Legislature (District 5)
You can watch the full presentation that was made to legislators about the travel plaza below. The camera set up in the room was not aimed at the screen where the presentation was being made. We asked Chemung County, and Onvo, for any slides or blueprints shown to legislators, but we did not hear back.