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GT Board of Commissioners / Airport Commission Study Meeting

On Wednesday, July 24, a special study group was called to have Kevin Klein, Chair of the Cherry Capital Airport Commission, speak to the concerns of the Commission. The meeting began with comments by Carol Schukra who spoke of her concern about the cutting of the trees at the airport. She praised the current plans to put solar panels and buffer zones on the area clear cut near Costco and suggested putting living roofs on new buildings at the airport.

Slide Presentation by Airport Commission Chair, Kevin Klein:

Kevin Klein – Introduced Airport Commission Vice Chair Tom Kerns, State of Michigan Rep. and other staff.

Mr. Klein began by reviewing airport development history.

Airport Commission Goals – That the airport be safe, secure, and self-sufficient.

Airport Operations -

Mr. Klein reported that 2018 was a record year which saw 96,189 airport operations. Mr. Klein reported that Cherry Capital Airport is among the top five airports in the state for that. More than 500,000 passengers flew into Cherry Capital in 2018. All airport operations are up again this year. Mr. Klein reported that he is proud of this growth. The airport has an $6.4 M operating budget. It is completely self-sufficient. Their capital budget is $2M. Taxes on your tickets go to the airport. He reiterated that the more tickets sold mean more revenue for airport operations.

Other Airport Income:

Rental Income – 39%, Car Rentals – 19%, Parking – 23%, Landing – 9%, Aviation Fuel – 3%, Other – 7%

Operating Expenses:

Personnel Costs – 41%, Occupancy – 13%, Purchased Services – 28%, Other – 18%

Airport Economic Impact is just short of $1B for the state. The airport is one of the foundational basis for northern Michigan. Twenty two hundred jobs are attributed to airport. There are 24 Administrative staff employed at the airport. Mr. Klein reported that Sen. Peters has expressed his support for the airport many times.

Airlines Represented at the Airport – Allegiant, American, Delta, United. Allegiant is very low cost. These airlines serve 14 cities nationally. Sarasota, Florida and Washington D.C. are among that list.

Compatible Land Use

Incompatible land around the airport requires removal and pruning of trees and other obstructions or structures. Mr. Klein gave as an example the water tower in E. Bay Twp. He feels local zoning has done a great job of incorporating airport values into their planning. The Airport Commission works hard to get the community involved.

FAA Form 7460 – Notice of Proposed Construction or Addition

This form addresses not just permanent structures, roads, drains, etc. but also temporary structures like cranes. Counties and townships must comply with FAA rules.

Michigan Tall Structures Act 259

If a structure exceeds 200 feet in the airport approach plan, local government entities must go through and comply with this act. The state sends out inspectors to ensure compliance at the airport. Table 3.2 in the presentation applies to these approach surfaces.

Federal grant assurances are directly related to approaches in which the Airport Commission takes a proactive approach insuring that they are met. The act requires that any tree that exceeds the plan has to be removed.

Inspection Process 139 Certificate

The state licenses the airport. The state inspectors note anything out of standard which they report.

ALP Obstruction Tables and Approach Sheets

These include height restrictions. They look mainly at structures like the water tower, and emphasize public health and safety. The map presented shows zoning areas, runways, and each of the zoning area requirements on separate sheets. It also contains quality of life standards that address sound levels, noise, etc. The state had help from different planning councils around the state in putting it together.

Question and Answer Period:

R. Henschel: Have these plans been updated taking into consideration new technologies?

A: The state has ongoing training sessions that update them.

Updated ALP Part 77 Obstruction Plan

The state is required to send this out to counties and townships. Form 7460 must be filed with the state when any new structure is proposed. explains when you need to file this form.

Trees A map shows trees identified within the airport approaches. These are labeled with the approach they are identified with.

S. Wheelock: It seems the majority of obstructions are manmade. As to trees identified, is it a group of trees or one?

A: Groups mainly but it could also be one tree. Those that have been mitigated are not showing. An upside-down wedding cake model was shown as planes takeoff and descend. There is a 150 ft restriction at bottom which works upward and outward from the airport.

B. Hundley: More growth will mean larger planes and more planes. Will more restrictions need to be applied? Would the runway to east have to be extended?

A: No.

B. Coffia: In regard to the mobile home neighborhood near the airport, why were trees cleared there?

KK: The current approach threshold requires that homeowners remove the trees. The airport took it over so they wouldn’t have to bear the burden. These trees have been out of compliance for a long time. They are as far east with that runway as they are going to go.

B. Hundley: What about the hills around the airport?

A: Path indicators guide the pilots.

B. Hundley: How much growth would push runway expansions?

A: Large aircraft manufacturers are changing how planes are being built, to specs for lighter fuel efficiency, needing less space to take off and land. We don't know for sure, but based on airport projected needs to accommodate growth, and consultations with airlines, runways won’t need expansion.

S. Wheelock: The trees are our major concerns. The approach area 21-2 is the airport industrial park along Garfield and west of Three Mile Rd.

B. Hundley: They are all in Oakwood Cemetery. Many seem significantly above restriction. It looks like there are a considerable number of trees that will need to be removed.

KK: Easement needs to be granted into the cemetery which the city controls. We want the city to define what trees need to be removed or trimmed. We want to start planting replacement trees now. There will be no clear cutting. The easement process needs to be approved for the city to be funded for doing the work.

B. Hundley: It’s a burden for busy citizens to pay attention to these processes. Could you come and address us again before the work is done?

KK: Absolutely

B. Coffia: These restrictions need to be explained in layman’s language. Citizens end up dealing with the impact of tree cutting after the fact. Could you walk us through specifics on the targeted eight tree obstacles?

KK: Oakwood Cemetery – I can't give you an exact number, 30 - 50 trees or less. Some can be topped. The last time large major cutting was done in that area was in 1959. We need the easement. I hope the FAA will give us the definitions.

R. Henschel: Can you give us a timeline?

KK: Depending on the FAA, maybe early winter. That would be fast. Realistically, three years out.

B. Coffia: What is in approach area 18-6?

A: South of Consumers property, TCLP, a couple others. Strip of trees along the property lines. Need to access a number of trees. Just over an acre involved.

KK: A handful of trees are involved. There is a cluster there hitting the side slope.

B.Coffia: Timeline?

KK: We have to work with property owners to get easements. Three years out.

State Rep: Some buildings are involved there too.

S. Wheelock: Have the structures been pretty much mitigated?

KK: Yes

B. Hundley: What are NBRN and U for lighting?

State Rep: Those designate the different lighting systems required. Includes painting for daytime. For nighttime, must have lights.

S. Wheelock: Thank you. I feel good about the answers given and detail.

B. Hundley: Regarding the sources of revenue from the land, etc., I am grateful we don’t use taxpayer money, but 39% of operating budget comes from the rental revenue. How does a land rental figure in?

KK: Land rental areas included are buildings, parking lot, etc.

B. Hundley: This ties into the tree cutting issue. The public’s impression was that trees weren’t taken out for safety, but just to aid development to raise revenues for the airport. We need the public to be more informed.

KK: Capital dollars do not include grants.

B. Hundley: So those dollars are applied to airport buildings, runways, structures?

KK: Yes

R. Henschel: Will becoming an Independent Authority change anything?

KK: No.

B.Coffia: If you have authority over zoning what is the potential for airport expansion?

KK: We would have to purchase more land in order to expand. Based on airport modeling 50 years out, we will not need to expand.

R.Henschel: We can write into bylaws that they get Commission authority to expand.

B. Coffia: Will you be increasing area for non-aeronautical rentals?

KK: We have identified land available for leasing near Costco.

B. Coffia: When the airport authority consultants were asked for pros, what I heard was there would be a lot more freedom to promote development of non-aeronautical leasing to increase revenue.

R.Henschel: Could all the designated area end up be leased for solar panels?

KK: Possibly.

B. Hundley: Could an Independent Airport Authority float bonds?

KK: Depends on how the articles of incorporation are designed.

S. Wheelock: the GT BOC has helped raise bonds for the airport before.

KK: We would hate to lose that.

B. Hundley: It is really important that more than one Commissioner be on the AA board.

KK: Absolutely. The articles of incorporation design will be subject to robust discussion and public airport.

As the meeting concluded, I felt that it had gone well in that Commissioners Coffia, Hundley, and Wheelock all had a chance to ask for clarification on trees identified as needing to be cut, where they are located, particularly those in Oakwood Cemetery. Also, the concerns as to what will transpire in terms of expansion and growth if the airport is granted the right to be an independent authority were addressed. This presentation and the subsequent question and answer session are now part of the public record. I urge everyone to attend these meetings as well as the ones scheduled for the Authority study group and the regular airport commission meetings which usually take place on the last Tuesday of the month.

Meeting Adjourned: 10 am

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