August 14, 2003


Residents protest zoning changes around Springfield airport

It didn’t take a psychologist to read the mood of the more than 200 people who converged on the Bryan Community Center last Wednesday night to respond to proposed zoning changes for the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport — they were mad.

Filling up parking spaces all the way up downtown Dayton Street, meeting participants — most of whom were residents of the areas adjacent to the airport that would be affected by the changes — streamed into meeting rooms A and B, where the meeting was scheduled to occur. But 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, all the chairs were filled and people were spilling out into the hallway, and organizers announced that the meeting would move to the Bryan Center gym, where almost every seat was quickly taken.

The meeting offered residents an opportunity to respond to proposed zoning changes around the airport, which were recently drafted by the Airport Zoning Commission.

The changes, the first zoning changes since 1966, include restrictions on new construction in some areas close to the airport, restrictions regarding the soundproofing of new homes in several areas and the requirement that new homes include a deed covenant about the area’s high noise level, among other changes.

The proposed zoning plan would create four zoning areas, including the airport itself, and parts of Greene and Clark Counties.

For almost two hours during last week’s meeting people rose to speak, all in opposition to the changes. Drawing the most passionate opposition were the changes that would restrict new construction in some areas.

“If my $100,000 home catches on fire and burns, you’re not going to let me rebuild? That’s just wrong,” said Jim Clem, who identified himself as living in the area in which all new construction would be prohibited.

“The restrictions on building are not just or equitable,” said Russell Shaw, who lives on a Jackson Road farm, which he identified as being in his family for four generations. “Personally, my retirement plans will be gone and my property value down. Am I supposed to believe that my rights are being diminished for my so-called safety?”

“I’ve always considered the Air [National] Guard base a good neighbor, but now you’re telling us that we can’t expand our business operations,” said Bill Waddle, who farms on Springfield-Jamestown Road. The proposed changes provide “no compensation for anyone. It will have a major impact on all of us,” he said.

In remarks that drew a loud round of applause, Dan Young, the CEO of Young’s Jersey Dairy, cited the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, pointing out that “nor shall private property be used for public good without just compensation.”

Young, and several other speakers, also complained that the zoning commission did not personally notify airport neighbors about the meeting and the proposed zoning plan, instead advertising the hearing in the Springfield News-Sun and the Yellow Springs News.

“I don’t know if it’s legal but it’s not right,” Young said. He added that when he wants to expand his business, he’s legally required to notify the Jersey Dairy’s neighbors.

Clifton resident Martha Hild said the zoning changes were being proposed “too late.”

“There are too many people already existing” in the airport area, she said, noting that Clifton was settled “100 years before the airplane was invented.”

Concern about public safety has led to the zoning changes, according to Dick Higgins, chairman of the Airport Zoning Commission. He said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires “certain requirements for the safety of the aircraft and those on the ground. They’re looking after you and the people flying the planes.”

Higgins also said that the zoning changes are being considered now because the airport is seeking funding from the FAA, which, he said, requires “certain minimum standards.”

However, while the FAA suggests guidelines for airports receiving funding, it does not require specific changes, according to Tanyard Road resident Ken Struewing, who said that he researched the issue. “These are just guidelines,” he said. “It’s not mandatory that you make these changes.”

Struewing also said that the airport needs to reveal its FAA-required five-year plan.

“I have great concern about where you’re going to go in the future,” he said.

In response, a Springfield official said that the “city of Springfield is in the process of updating” the airport’s “master plan.”

“We don’t see a lot of change,” the official said.

Several participants expressed their fear that the city of Springfield is attempting to lower property values of those who live around the airport, so that it can later buy the land at reduced prices.

“If you ask us, do we want this federal aid to support your airport, the answer is no,” said Jim Davis, who lives on Springfield-Jamestown Road. “If you want our land you should buy it, but don’t try to push us out.”

Many participants spoke about the high noise level experienced by those who live or work near the airport, and their concern that the number of jets flying overhead seems to be increasing.

Nancy Bunton of Greenleaf Gardens said that noise from Air National Guard airplanes interferes with her business. She said that it’s often difficult to communicate with customers when jets fly overhead. Unlike many businesses, she can’t relocate her business to an inside location, Bunton said.

“We don’t begrudge the National Guard, but if the noise increases, how are we going to do business?” she said. “We can’t insulate the outside and we can’t have a garden store inside.”

A Jackson Road resident who lives close to the airport runway said that the aircraft noise “is almost unbearable. We can’t hear the television and the radio and we can’t talk. If I could get compensation I would move tomorrow.”

Some area residents questioned why home owners should be the ones to pay the price, with housing restrictions, of the airport noise.

What regulates the National Guard jets? asked Lisa Goldberg, who recently moved to Meredith Road. “Why are we being restricted? Why are there no restrictions placed on what hours they’re flying?” she asked.

Several meeting participants suggested that area residents need to organize to protest both the noise from airplanes flying from the airport and the proposed zoning changes.

“This proposal is bad for everyone in Greene County and in Clark County,” said Tony Satariano, the owner of the Clifton Mill. “We need to get people together, hire a constitutional lawyer and fight this thing.”

When a suggestion was made that the zoning changes be put to a referendum, Higgins said that airport zoning changes are not subject to referendums.

If that is so, state Representative Chris Widener, who represents Ohio’s 84th District, which includes Miami Township, said that he will introduce new legislation to propose such referendums.

Widener also encouraged zoning commission members to hold another public hearing, after they have officially notified all airport neighbors of the zoning changes.

In closing the meeting, Higgins said that zoning commission members held the meeting to listen to public comments, and that they will take those comments into consideration when drafting the final version of the zoning changes.

—Diane Chiddister