Agreement on Ann Arbor Airport expansion delayed
Opponents of a planned expansion of the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport applauded a decision tonight by the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees to postpone a vote on a proposed agreement between the township and City of Ann Arbor over which jurisdiction is responsible for what duties at the airport.
Members of the group Committee for the Preservation of Community Quality said the agreement would have prevented them from filing a federal lawsuit at some future time. They say the agreement would retroactively approve the process the city went through in 2007 and 2008 to grant an amendment to the Airport Layout Plan calling for the runway extension.
Andy McGill, a leader of the community group, praised Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal for pulling the agreement off the township board's agenda. He also accused the city of attempting to pull one over on the township.
"What Ann Arbor is doing is one of the most devious acts of maniuplation yet," McGill said at the meeting.
Ann Arbor Chief Assistant City Attorney Abigail Elias, in an interview earlier today, said the agreement was meant to clarify a 1979 pact between the city and township, and would clarify that the city fire and construction codes would govern airport building projects.
Township code on utilities and soil erosion would be applicable, as required by state law, Elias added. The agreement also specifies that the township will receive advance notice of any future changes, she said.
The two sides are involved in a court battle over the construction of two buildings at the airport, a hangar and a building for snow removal equipment.
In a memo to Pittsfield trustees, Grewal said the agreement was meant to resolve those disputes out of court.
But after tonight's meeting, Grewal said McGill's objections over potential future lawsuits prompted her to delay action. She signed a petition against the runway expansion and said during the meeting: "I think I speak for all the trustees when I say we unanimously oppose the runway expansion."
The city is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the project, which is expected to take until the end of the year. No action will be taken until that's completed, an April press release said. Plans call for lengthening the 3,500-foot long runway by 800 feet.
McGill claimed the city's process of obtaining state and federal approvals for the runway expansion didn't meet with the Ann Arbor City Council's own requirement to notify surrounding communities. He said the city told the township 59 days after federal approval was granted, and the deadline to file objections with the Federal Aviation Administration was 60 days after approval.
In an e-mail to township trustees, McGill specifically objected to a provision in the agreement that requires the city to notify the township within 30 days of the final City Council vote. That, he said, precludes filing objections with state or federal authorities.
McGill and other residents who object to the runway expansion say it would jeopardize the safety of the airport surroundings and result in larger aircraft being able to access the airport.
The Airport Advisory Committee says the expansion would improve safety because the current the runway requires pilots to make a much steeper descent than recommended by the FAA.
The airport, at corner of State Street and Ellsworth Road, handles about 75,000 takeoffs and landings a year.
Dan Meisler is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com.