Residents don't want airport in backyard

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By Gayle Deaton

Who wants an airport in their backyard?

Not residents who live off Ky. 53 near the Oldham County line.

One of the three sites selected by the Oldham County Airport Board as a possible location for an airport includes a portion of Shelby County.

Ladina Wingert, who has lived on her property for more than eight years, said she is absolutely against the idea as are her neighbors.

"I feel it's very unnecessary," Wingert said. "If you look a a geographical map of Oldham County, a majority of the county is within 30 minutes of Bowman Field. I understand they are trying to work on growing industry but I think they're trying to put the cart before the horse. I don't think an airport is going to bring in industry."

Another one of Wingert's concerns is that it would be an uncontrolled airport, which means no air traffic control tower or no controller. More than 100 planes are estimated to be flying in and out each day, Wingert said, and most will be transient and unfamiliar with the area. As they approach to land in the dark, they can light up the runway from their control panel, according to the plans that have been presented so far, she said.

Wingert is one of several residents who have been researching the authority of airport boards as well as the past successes and failures of small airports across the commonwealth. Most do not turn a profit, she said, citing a study used in Shelby County's consideration of constructing an airport two years ago. Fiscal court at that time decided not to pursue the idea because there was no evidence it would make money.

Wingert, whose husband has his pilot's license and works for UPS, is familiar with airplanes and airports and the noise levels associated with them.

"It's going to affect everyone in this area," she said, "not just the property owners where the runway would be built."

Todd Maggert, an employee with the Kentucky State Police, would lose his house if the Shelbyville site is selected by the Oldham airport board.

He and his wife just spent two years building the home and thought they had selected the perfect rural location with a good school system.

The "Gathright site," which would affect Shelby residents, is located between Ky. 53 and Ky. 22 near the Oldham-Shelby county line. Whichever site is selected, the proposed airport would use about 250 acres, and cost as much as $20 million to complete.

Shelby County officials say their hands are tied in the situation because the airport board has the power of condemnation and eminent domain -- but they agree they support Shelby residents' efforts in protesting the site selection.

Magistrate Allen Ruble, who represents the area, said he's been informed that only a small part of the runway would be in Shelby County.

However, Ruble said a lot of the buffer zone surrounding the airport would be in Shelby County.

"How will this affect the landowners in this buffer zone,both now and in the future?" Ruble asked.

He also questioned whether Oldham officials would listen to Shelby County residents' voices because they don't have to answer to them, politically.

"The Oldham County airport board has the right of condemnation across county lines, without the approval of Shelby County," Ruble said.

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger also expressed concern about the plan.

Rothenburger said he has also been told that under the proposed Shelby-Oldham site, only a small portion of the runway would physically be inside Shelby County.

However, he said he believes the effects could likely end up being felt much further over the line.

"One of my concerns is how will it devalue the property surrounding it?" Rothenburger said. "It seems unfair for the people who've moved out there to have a quiet, peaceful environment for an airport to pop up in their backyards."

Rothenburger said he also understands the situation seems especially unfair to Shelby residents because they have "no representation and no recourse" when it comes to members of the Oldham County Fiscal Court and the airport board comprised of volunteers appointed by the Oldham County Judge Executive.

"They can't vote for the Oldham County people," Rothenburger noted.

Of course, as one resident pointed out, that doesn't mean they can't organize a campaign against those who have done them wrong.

And, some of the residents who have property on both sides of the Oldham and Shelby line do vote in Oldham County. For example, Bobbi and Patrick McAuliffe own 92 acres on the Shelby and Oldham line but they vote in Ballardsville.

"I'm hoping the people we've elected will support us," McAuliffe said. "There are many, many people who are going to remember this."

At a recent public meeting on the subject, as many as 400 people attended and at least 98 percent of them were against it, she said.

Bobbi McAuliffe said the proposed Shelby County site would locate the runway less than 300 feet from her back door.

"This airport is just a terrible idea," she said. "It's a disaster from our point of view. If it's a fulfillment of someone else's dream, it certainly destroys many other people's dreams.

McAuliffe said she is also opposed to the Henry County site for the same reasons.

"I want to be supportive of the other people, too."

Several residents, as a group, plan to check into any available legal remedies, she said.

The next meeting of the Oldham County Airport Board is set for Dec. 5.