The Lancaster Town Board went on the record Tuesday night in welcoming the construction of a national veterans cemetery within town limits.
The vote came three weeks after The Buffalo News reported that Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli objected to a site in the town under consideration as a veterans cemetery by the federal government.
Fudoli raised concerns that the site is a vacant industrial park eyed for commercial development, but his opposition spurred controversy that the Town Board sought to tamp down with Tuesday's resolution of support.
"People were coming up to me and asking, ‘Where do I stand and where does the rest of the board stand on this?' " Councilman John Abraham Jr., the resolution sponsor, said prior to the Town Board meeting.
Fudoli has argued that he would support a cemetery at another site in Lancaster and he believes his political opponents have eagerly made hay of the cemetery conflict.
But the Town Board's cemetery resolution did not specify a preferred site for the cemetery, and the Republican supervisor ended up joining the board's four Democrats in supporting the measure.
A site in Lancaster is one of three finalist sites in Western New York under consideration by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the construction of a national veterans cemetery.
The closest such cemetery is in Bath, Steuben County, and veterans' advocates and federal lawmakers have pushed the VA to build another cemetery closer to Buffalo.
Over a lengthy selection process, VA officials narrowed their choices to two sites in Corfu, Genesee County, and a 123-acre parcel at Walden Avenue and Pavement Road in Lancaster.
The Lancaster property, the Eastport Commerce Center, is a vacant industrial park owned by Uniland Development Co.
Fudoli revealed at the Aug. 14 Lancaster Industrial Development Agency meeting that he previously wrote to the VA's environmental consultant asking that the site be withdrawn from consideration.
Fudoli told The News last month that he has withdrawn this request but he still prefers the VA pick for the cemetery a site in Lancaster that isn't earmarked for commercial development.
News of Fudoli's objection to the Lancaster site generated outrage from some veterans and their advocates, and the supervisor has spent the past three weeks attempting to clarify his position on the cemetery.
He repeated Tuesday night that he has tried to interest federal officials in a 260-acre property that has been put up for sale by its owners
The resoluon states the town would welcome a veterans cemetery, and town officials pledge to work with the VA to bring a cemetery to Lancaster. Abraham said he purposely did not specify a cemetery site in the resolution but said he would accept any decision by the VA, even if it means taking the industrial park property off the tax rolls.
Members of the public who spoke on the topic generally favored constructing a cemetery in Lancaster but in a few cases expressed hope that a different site beside the commerce center would be selected.