Goodbye Trees, Hello Confusion
April 3rd Grand Traverse County Board Meeting With weeks of animosity seemingly behind us, the board seems to be getting along much better for now. There seems to be some confusion on the airport cutting down so many trees. Whether the FAA has mandated the clear cutting or not seems to be a debate that some paperwork would clear up instantly. Some on the board look forward to the chance to see this mandate in writing. Outside of that, this meeting moved along briskly and unanimously passed along every motion.
The opening public statements touched on some of the same issues we have seen time and time again. The meeting start time and the invocation policy still seem to be upsetting to the public. People also chimed in this week concerned with the clear cutting of so many trees at the airport. The general public consensus seems to be why did they cut so many trees? Also what do they plan to do with that land now?
The agenda passed unanimously, as well as the consent calendar after three items were removed. Of the three items, one was the airport boards minutes. Commissioner Hundley wanted some clarification on a few things. He also wanted to state he thought it was important moving forward that the Airport meetings and members were made more readily available to the public. This idea gained more and more momentum throughout the meeting. The other two items removed pertained to the Pavillions pursuing information on leasing or selling land, and also the local landfills information on waste management. Both were quickly discussed and passed.
The Conservation Resource Alliance had a very informative presentation by Amy Beyer. She informed the board, and public, of money spent as well as projects completed restoring the Boardman River. She then highlighted the plan with the Boardman, and how the CRA and its partners fit into the plans moving forward. They are slowly phasing out as they are completing their tasks, which means the budget is going down. The board passed the budget for this unanimously.
The the jail had a short presentation stating why they needed to make changes to some of the bathrooms. They are changing 10 bathroom partitions. This is being done for safety reasons, and still complies with privacy mandates. This budget was passed unanimously as well.
The big fish for the day was the Cherry Capital Airport cutting down so, so many trees. Then seemingly with a goal to infuriate the public they put up a for lease sign. The board seemed caught off guard by this clear cutting just as much as the public. This seemed to irk a few members since it is county owned land. According to the airport the FAA mandated they cut the trees down, but no one on the board or in attendance at the meeting had seen proof of any mandate. The reasoning is said to be for obstacle avoidance, stating that animals living in the trees cause problems for the airplanes. With that said there has only been one instance in recent history of any animal causing damage to a plane.
A very good point was brought up by a citizen during public comment, that flocking birds don’t go places with trees. Ducks and Geese flock in large groups and tend to go toward large open areas. This seems to be a much bigger risk than a couple small nesting birds in the trees. If the FAA mandates that they cut the trees they can pull funding if the airport does not comply. Proof of this mandate would stop a lot of this debate and leads to what many commissioners and public want which is simple transparency.
Since the trees are gone, and we can’t stand them back up, what do we do now? There are murmurs of putting solar panels and bee-keepers in the empty land. This, I think, is a wonderful idea. The airport could possibly go green and run on bee power. Whoops i mean solar power, maybe we can figure out bee power though. In all seriousness, putting in that many solar panels would be a great thing to do with the empty land and help offset the loss of so many trees. The bees would be a nice added bonus. This entire idea may be far fetched, though, I'm not sure I see this ever actually coming to fruition.
Which brings us to a problem. Is the airport just cutting down trees so they can sub lease the land and cash in on the money, leaving the county wondering how they lost out on all that cash. The county owns the land and is leasing it to the airport. Letting the airport chop down trees so they can make money that could or maybe should be the counties is upsetting to some or possibly most. Or, is the airport simply doing what they must to comply with the FAA and making some money in the meantime. A simple solution again presents itself, transparency. Commissioner Coffia moved to ask the airport board to make their meeting times more accessible to the public and possibly recording them. In this motion, as well, is the idea to put the airport board members' contact info on the website so they are more available to the public. The motion which is merely asking them to put this info online was passed unanimously. Once again the theme here is is simple transparency.