Sunday, January 24, 2016

Leighton Township, Allegan County, Michigan: Controversy over airpark proposal

LEIGHTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some residents in northeastern Allegan County are worried that a proposed airpark could make their rural community less peaceful.

If approved, the airport would occupy a large plot of currently vacant land near the intersection of 144th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue in Leighton Township, southwest of Caledonia.

“I don’t know of any neighbors that are for this,” Kate Scheltema, a resident of Leighton Township for 16 years, told 24 Hour News 8 on Sunday.

She and her family run Green Gables Farm, which boards and trains horses. The proposed runway would go in just to the east of her barn. She’s worried the sounds of planes taking off and landing will spook the horses, which could harm business.

“There are, I would say, 12 owners that come out to enjoy their horses, and the airplanes in the air are a little bit of a problem. They’re very noisy,” Scheltema said.

The airport would include a 3,000-foot private runway. To put that in perspective, the longest runway at Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids is 10,000 feet. The proposal also calls for 15 new homes to be built nearby. Each home would be allowed to house two planes.

Clark Galloway, a township resident, and Steve Deer, the township supervisor, are the two men behind the proposed airport. Deer said he will not vote on the issue when the time comes.

“I have a lot of faith in the members of the board,” he said.

Scheltema said she and many other area residents weren’t made aware of the proposal when Galloway and Deer first introduced it to the township in November. Deer said that isn’t so.

“We asked to be on the planning commission agenda. A notice goes out to the public through the newspapers and postings that the planning commission will meet at a given time and place. And so that normal process was followed,” he said.

He said people who own property within 300 feet of the proposed airport also received a formal notice. Scheltema’s farm isn’t within that distance.

“The biggest value of this property is the fact that there’s already a private landing strip on the property that has been there for 42 years,” Galloway said, referring to the Martin family airstrip.

That airstrip is on the far west side of the property where the proposed runway would go.

The planning commission is slated to have its next meeting sometime next month. It’s unclear right now when the board will actually vote on the proposal.

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