By Chris Loeffler
Recently, the Perkins County Planning Commission has been evaluating language that would allow private airports to be built.
Existing private airports are “grandfathered” in, which means they may be used as it was when zoning ordinances were adopted.
Unfortunately, when the zoning regulations were first written and adopted in 2001, a provision in the language that would allow a private airport to apply for a permit was not included.
In order to allow for new ones to be built, language has to be adopted to allow for it.
One of the main objectives in Planning and Zoning is to set incompatible uses apart from each other. This is done for several reasons, but the main one is to preserve the property values so that the tax base will not decrease.
It’s also done to “promote the health, safety, convenience, order, prosperity and welfare of the present and future inhabitants of Perkins County and for the implementation of the duly adopted Perkins County Comprehensive Plan.”
The Planning Commission is in agreement about the language needed to protect the Grant Municipal Airport. Development allowed within three miles of the Grant Airport could jeopardize federal funds that the airport uses for new development.
This would include structures taller than 150 feet, private airports, or the desire to build other conflicting uses within three miles of the property boundary of the Grant Municipal Airport.
However, language to allow for new private airports outside the three miles of the Grant Airport presents other challenges.
It’s the job of the Planning Commission to decide how far apart from each other possible conflicting uses should be placed, which is called a “setback.”
Sometimes a use can affect a neighbor’s right to the safety and enjoyment of their property.
What is the proper distance to separate these from each other so that neither is burdened unnecessarily?
The airport owner has a right to have a runway, however, the neighbor next door has a right to remain safe, and not be bothered by noise, smell or other annoyances.
These are the kinds of issues that Planning and Zoning deals with on a regular basis.
Another issue is the current three mile, 150-foot height limitation surrounding each private runway in Perkins County. This zone, called an “overlay” zone, surrounds most private airports in Perkins County.
The “overlay” means that that area has two sets of regulations. On the Perkins County Zoning map, the overlay zone is marked by diagonal lines. In this area, structures are limited to 150 feet or less, and they have the underlying regulations, also.
The Planning Commission is considering amending this overlay. Instead of the overlay, they have drafted language for specific protection from certain uses.
In a nutshell, the new language would protect private airports from three things: 1. Wind turbines, 2. Cell towers, and 3. Tall grain elevator legs.
There will also be a requirement for new private airports to be spaced at least 2,000 feet away from another residence, church, school, or place of public assembly. There are additional requirements that new private airports must meet, also.
All agricultural buildings are currently exempt from the zoning regulations, which means that they do not have to obtain a zoning permit to build; we just ask them to voluntarily meet the setbacks.
However, in order to protect private airports, agricultural structures taller than 132 feet will be required to obtain a zoning permit. Generally, this will only apply to tall grain elevator legs.
The regulation committee drafted the new language with the help of a local group of pilots. They feel the draft is a good compromise between airport owners and agricultural uses surrounding it.
The public is encouraged to attend the next Planning Commission meeting where a public hearing is scheduled to listen to the public’s concerns.
It is scheduled for Thursday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the third floor district court room of the Perkins County Courthouse. All meetings are published in the legal notice section of this paper, and agendas and draft language are available from the office of the Zoning Administrator, second floor of the Perkins County Courthouse. You may reach the Zoning Administrator at: 308-352-2703.