Request for private airstrip takes off despite objections

Panel's decision sets several restrictions

Board allows resident to use part of property as a private runway


September 27, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Despite objections from neighbors, a Hampstead resident who runs an aerial advertising service will be permitted to use part of his 11-acre property near Falls Road as a private runway for his plane.

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals approved yesterday a request from Brian Corcoran for a 760-foot -by-50-foot grass-covered runway at his home on Michael's Meadow Drive. The three-member board voted 2-to-1 to allow the airstrip but limited use to Corcoran's single-engine Piper Super Cub, a two-seat plane.

Corcoran had the requisite federal and state permits allowing him to take off and land at the airstrip. He needed a ruling from the county zoning board, which can allow such projects as a conditional use on land zoned for agriculture.

Neighbors told the board they object to airplane noise, expected to see a decline in their property values and raised safety issues.

Linda Birch, a Falls Road resident, said she would file an appeal of the decision with Circuit Court. "I will speak in my own defense," Birch said. "I have covered all the evidence and done all the work."

Courtney Bond of Millers Station Road, said, "I do not want to live near an airport. If there is more than one plane, it will be noisy and unpleasant. There are other airports nearby that he can use."

Corcoran said that anyone with adequate acreage could make a similar application. He said he probably would use the airstrip about 100 times a year. Neighbors argued that other county airstrips are on much larger properties. In 1997, the board allowed a Woodbine farmer to build a strip on his nearly 200-acre property. In Keymar, a 154-acre property has had an airstrip for the past 30 years.

"The first time [Corcoran] landed the plane, I called 911," said Doug Cullison of Falls Road. "The next day, FAA gave me a list of rules. I am scared to call about my homeowner's insurance." The Federal Aviation Administration regulates airspace, airplanes and airports.

Cocoran's airstrip is so short that the pilot has little room to abort a flight in an emergency, Cullison said. Thousands of geese regularly fly over the area to nearby ponds, creating a potential hazard for low-flying aircraft, he said.

More than 100 private airstrips, which are subject to frequent inspections from the Maryland Aviation Administration, are located across the state.

Carroll has two public airports and six private airstrips, with other applications pending before the FAA and MAA.

"The FAA takes a hard look at the plat of a property and adjacent housing," said Gregory M. Smith, state airport licensing officer. "MAA goes over the plat and does a site inspection. The project cannot endanger the lives of surrounding property owners."

Smith noted Corcoran's excellent safety record during 16 years of flying and instructing. He also stressed that Corcoran cannot use the airfield to generate revenue.

"There is no reason other than concerns of the neighbors not to have this runway," said Smith. "This is such intermittent use and is not his primary mode of transportation. All he can do here is take off and land."

Board members said they were sympathetic to neighbors' arguments, but they voted 2-to-1 in favor of Corcoran.

"We cannot make a decision based on feelings," said Harvey Tegeler, a board member, who called the case troubling. "I appreciate the neighbors' concerns and frustrations. I am wrestling with what I feel vs. my obligation to uphold zoning law."

The application met the standards for land use in the agricultural zone, Tegeler said in voting for the application with Ronald Hoff, zoning appeals chairman. Howard B. Kramer cast the dissenting vote, saying he had to go with his feelings.

The board placed several restrictions on Corcoran, including limiting use of the airstrip to the plane he now owns. He cannot pave the airstrip or pass the conditional use to future owners of the property.

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