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Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015

City hosts discussion on airport

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monett Municipal Airport from the north. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
An open house on plans for the Monett Municipal Airport last week provided information on height and hazard concerns. Public interest shifted instead to the city's plans to acquire more property around the airport land.

Around 20 people attended the session, held in the Monett City Hall Auditorium. According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, all the landowners within a mile of the airport received letters inviting them to the gathering. "The reason for the meeting was to explain and discuss FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] height and hazards guidelines," Pyle said.

Scott Michie, height and hazards specialist with the engineering firm of Bucher, Willis and Ratliff (BWR), fielded questions initially. Michie stressed the city was not trying to impose land use. The point in establishing height and hazard guidelines was to provide the city with a first line of defense to protect the future use of the airport from obstructions such as towers.

Pyle expected the Monett City Council would consider local regulations to enforce FAA guidelines. If an object is found to be a hazard under FAA guidelines, the city would seek to have protocol in place to protect air space.

Dan Vogel, the city's consulting attorney on airport matters with the St. Louis firm of Cunningham, Vogel and Rose, consulted with Pyle and Mike Waller, who designed the master plan for the airport for BWR, in a conference call. Vogel is developing the best way to regulate such hazards, Pyle said.

Waller said he and Michie covered the scope of height and hazard issues in their presentation.

"There didn't seem to be anyone who had any objections or type of concern with what the city is doing in trying to protect the air space," Waller said. "We were pleased there were no surprises."

Most of the questions raised by the audience focused on the master plan and the city's future plans to acquire land around the airport, mostly to develop a wider runway for growth.

"The city has been up front with people about its plans," Pyle said. "The master plan is online. We shared details with those who had questions."

Specifically, the city has plans to acquire 16 acres north of the airport, 282 acres to the west of the current runway and 61 acres to the south. One residence to the north and two more to the west are included in the acquisition plans.

"I can sympathize with their concerns," Waller said. "I explained a little about the land acquisition process. It got to the point where we had to shut down the questions to address height and hazards."

Waller explained a public hearing will be held in the future on the environmental assessment of the airport. Concerns about land acquisition could appropriately be aired at that time.

Because the United States Army Corps of Engineers asked for a study of the airport as a possible wetlands, Waller said BWR has extended its time frame for the study. The environmental study is presently around 80 percent complete. Once finished, the report will go to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for review.

"If the state can turn around the report quickly, we're looking at having the next hearing in November or December," Waller said. "Otherwise, it will be next year."

Pyle said a public session on height and hazards was not required by MoDOT. The city chose to have the open house to broaden understanding of concerns over keeping the airport as a viable investment and public resource.

Members of the Monett City Council also attended the hearing but did not address the group.

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