Air park neighbors disturbed, file suit

Oppose appeals decision allowing commercial use

July 20, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

About two dozen neighbors of the Keymar Airpark oppose a recent county zoning appeals decision allowing the 29-year-old facility to operate as a commercial airport, and have filed suit asking the Carroll Circuit Court to review the decision.

About nine of the plaintiffs testified at the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing earlier this year, saying low-flying airplanes disturbed them and might affect farm animals in the area, and expressed fear of accidents.

A Frederick County couple, Dennis P. and Brenda L. Young, bought the Keymar airport in 1997 and built a home there, said Brenda L. Young, a 39-year-old mother of five. She doesn't fly, but her husband is getting his pilot's license.

Although they applied to change the status from a private airport to a private commercial airport with accessory uses and buildings, Young doesn't think they needed the zoning board's approval.

"It's been here 30 years. It's not a new airport, so they pretty much had to," she said of the board's decision. "If it goes to the Circuit Court and the judge upholds it, then that will be a precedent for this operation and especially for Carroll County."

The 16-acre air park was built on agricultural land in 1970 by previous owners Robert and Winifred Miller, now retired, who said in a 1996 interview that their original license from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a private airstrip was free -- so long as they did not charge pilots to use it.

After two days of hearings in April and May, the zoning appeals board ruled in favor of the Youngs, saying the county zoning ordinance allows public or private airports as a conditional use in agricultural areas, subject to the approval of the State Aviation Commission.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to overturn that June 16 decision or to modify it, said their attorney, Charles M. Preston. The board on July 2 denied a request for reconsideration.

In a written decision, the board said it found no adverse effects upon the neighborhood and noted testimony for the Youngs from several experts, including a representative of the Maryland Aviation Administration who said the site was ideally suited for the proposed use, that noise from airplanes at the location is below the level set by the MAA and the FAA, that only single-engine aircraft would use the grass airstrip, and that takeoff and landing patterns were sufficient and clear of obstruction. The runway is lighted, and is longer and has more clearance than required.

No gasoline would be sold, no tow planes or parachutists allowed, and three to four hangar buildings are planned, according to the testimony. A commercial designation would allow the sale of pilot accessories such as radios and Global Positioning System instruments.

The board set conditions, including restricting the airport to a grass runway and to no more than 15 planes at a time -- "tie downs" for which they could collect rent, according to the opinion.

Young said the airport probably could accommodate 50 to 60 planes, "so that could limit the number of flights -- and that is illegal. Once the key goes in the ignition of an aircraft, it becomes a federal matter. The FAA makes the rules for pilots." She said they may file a counter-appeal to lift the restrictions.

In 1997, the Youngs received a violation notice of alleged illegal use and operation of the private landing field from the county zoning officer, but the zoning appeals board in 1998 found no violation, according to Young and the board opinion.

"There's no big jets coming in here or anything," she said. A busy day now means "five, six, seven on a nice weekend day. Some days are zero."

"I counted one day about 26 military aircraft flying over the airport that had nothing to do with our airport," she said.

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