Land use studies not the enemy

LETTER TO THE EDITOR from ROBERT HOM, Eagle River, Wis.

I guess I am a little sensitive these days reading about airports in national publications; whether they have an obvious anti-GA airport slant as USA Today, or in the pro-airport General Aviation News. But, I do feel a couple of comments are warranted with respect to the article “Is your airport on the endangered list?”

My discontent comes from the insinuation in two areas of the article that Land Use Studies and Proposed Land Use or Zoning Changes are singular tools used to close airports. Reporter Meg Godlewski implies in the article that airport users should be opposed to land use studies in general. I suggest quite the opposite.

Airport managers and their sponsors should be actively encouraged to commission land use studies.

Beyond their immediate land holdings, the majority of airports aerial operations areas often extend over multiple municipal jurisdictions. In my experience, I have found most relationships between these various levels of government to be tolerant at best, distrustful occasionally, and adversarial in the extreme cases. Quite often there is little communication between neighboring communities in land use planning, nor similar goals espoused in those plans. And, perhaps most important, the needs of an airport are not included because the neighboring community does not have a fiduciary or legal obligation to the airport.

What is needed is a comprehensive land use plan, incorporating “all” the lands surrounding an airport, and extending out to protect runway approach areas. This type of planning is helpful in identifying incompatible land uses that can lead to conflict with an airport. Once existing and future land uses have been identified, responsible entities can work together to create zoning documents that will guide development in a cooperative manner. This allows communities to improve in a reasonable fashion, without negatively impacting airport operations.

There are two options when it comes to land use planning and zoning. As airport stewards, we can sit and wait, be reactive and oppose proposals as they come in and hope like heck we don’t miss one. Or we can make the effort to engage with our neighbors, drive the planning process, and develop the protections the airport needs proactively.

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