Airport zoning approved

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/28/01.

With no apparent progress in discussion between the airport committees and the school board on a resolution to the potential impact of a zoning ordinance for the proposed new airport, the Paynesville Joint Airport Zoning Board voted to move forward last week.

On Thursday, the committee unanimously approved a zoning ordinance for the airport, which would be located just west of its present site on the west side of town.

The school board, fearing the restrictions would negatively impact its future development, passed a resolution opposing the zoning last month. The airport committees and the school board met earlier this month to discuss the matter and appointed a committee of three members to discuss solutions. But none of their suggestions provided a resolution.

Phil Bailey, the chairman of the zoning board who served on the three-man ad hoc committee, told the board prior to the vote that it was difficult to assess the impact of the zoning on the school because the district has no firm plans for expansion. "Right now it's conjecture," he said. "It's a maybe."

The zoning limits building on the southern portion of the school land, including the driving range, which the district has leased to the golf course. That lease runs for 20 years.

School board members have stated the district's intention to eventually build an elementary school at the high school and middle school campus. The zoning ordinance would limit their options.

"This does not stop them from building a building," countered Bailey at the zoning meeting. "It stops them from building a building exactly where they want to. Who knows what will happen 20 or 30 years down the line?"

"It comes to a point where you can't stop for something that might happen 20 years down the road," agreed Harlow Olson, who represents the Kandiyohi County Planning Board on the zoning committee.

The committee acknowledged the importance of the school to the community, but felt the airport plan and future school use were not mutually exclusive. They also felt that most of the disagreement concerned the location of the airport and not the substance of the zoning ordinance.

One issue specifically raised about the ordinance at the public hearing in February was the inclusion of a sunset date. The board said it couldn't put a specific date in the ordinance, but added that a repeal of the ordinance would be easy to do.

"If we're still working toward (a new airport), then we should let it stand," said Steve Whitcomb, the chairman of the airport commission who also serves on the zoning board. "Should the plug be pulled on the airport or the site, then the plug should be pulled on the ordinance."

The ordinance will be resubmitted to the aeronautical division of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Then it will be forwarded to local governmental entities Stearns and Kandiyohi counties, Paynesville, Roseville, and Irving townships, and the city of Paynesville for overlay on their zoning requirements.

Once a new runway is built, buildings will be prohibited in the areas directly off the end of the runways. Height limitations would impact a greater area.

• The airport commission expects the first land appraisals to be done by the end of the month.

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