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Posted on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 6:07 p.m.

Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township come to terms on dispute over airport

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township officials have agreed to settle a longstanding dispute over the city airport.

City officials said the agreement, approved unanimously Thursday night, will govern which entity has authority to apply and enforce its construction, fire prevention and soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinances at the Ann Arbor Airport. In addition, the agreement clarifies the relationship between the city and the township and their respective authorities.


Leigh Greden

The city owns the airport, but the land is in Pittsfield Township.

Council Member Leigh Greden, D-3rd Ward, who helped negotiate the agreement, said it also resolves a lawsuit brought by the city against the township in late 2008.

Greden said the agreement was reached largely thanks to a change in leadership in Pittsfield Township. He said he expects the agreement will receive approval from the township's governing board on Nov. 10.

"This really was a great cooperation between the two entities," Greden said.

City Manager Roger Fraser agreed there's been a "nice turnaround" with the new township administration.

Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said today one of her first priorities after taking office in November 2008 was to sit down with city officials and resolve the airport dispute.


Pittsfield Supervisor Mandy Grewal

Fraser said the dispute centered on the city's difficulties with the township's review of site plans for a box hangar building and snow removal equipment building the city wanted to construct.

The township refused to allow the city to apply its construction code to the new buildings, both of which are aeronautical facilities, said Abigail Elias, chief assistant city attorney. The township issued "stop work" orders because building permits hadn't been obtained, and the city filed a lawsuit to get the orders lifted.
The city took the position that the provisions in the Michigan Aeronautics Code give the city broad authority over aeronautical facilities at the airport, including the zoning and planning of aeronautical facilities and application of the city's regulations and ordinances. The township didn't agree.

Provisions of the new agreement now state:

  • The city will extend and enforce its construction code, including the building code, electrical code and mechanical code components thereof, to all aeronautical facilities constructed on airport property, including the issuance of permits, inspections and enforcement of violations.
  • The process for the township to review and comment on site plans is clarified, including the city's responsibility to pay for actual costs, rather than the fees charged for the normal site plan review and approval process.
  • A modification of the Airport Layout Plan will be treated as a land use plan. If a modification of the plan is proposed, the city will give notice to the township prior to authorizing any professional services agreements.
  • The township will have jurisdiction over the airport for soil erosion and sedimentation control.
  • The city will extend and enforce its fire prevention code to all aeronautical facilities located on airport property.

The five-year agreement retroactively takes effect Oct. 1 and will automatically renew every five years unless either party objects in writing.

A separate resolution approved by the City Council Thursday dictates new deed restrictions at the airport. The FAA required the city to approve restrictions for a portion of the airport property that will be used for the construction of a new raw water transmission main.

The city presently pumps raw water originating from the Steere Farm well field, located on the airport property, through a water transmission main to the city's Water Treatment Plant, which delivers the water to city residents. The existing main will be sealed and abandoned and replaced with a new 30-inch main.

Fraser said the city is essentially putting restrictions on itself to make sure the water infrastructure doesn't interfere with the operation of the airport.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 1:44 a.m.

IMO, Grewal just threw Stonebridge under the bus. (airplane?)

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Nov 9, 2009 : 11:54 a.m.

@Gemini27200 According to Ann Arbor officials, the old township administration ordered the stop construction and was "a disaster to work with." In response, the city sued when the old administration was still in office. Then Mandy Grewal was elected in November 2008. Shortly after she took office, City Council Members Leigh Greden and Margie Teall went down to meet with her and her deputy, Barb Fuller, to reach out on fire issues. According to sources I spoke with, Grewal and Fuller brought up the lawsuit that they inherited from the prior administration and said they were tired of spending money on lawyers and wanted it resolved. It is now. @Blue Eyes One city official I spoke with believes that Pittsfield would have to approve annexation because the land falls outside the area governed by the boundary agreement the city has with other townships. But the question is: Does Pittsfield have any desire to give the city the land? Some doubt it.

Blue Eyes

Mon, Nov 9, 2009 : 9:13 a.m.

How long before the City decides it should annex the airport? It owns the airport, it enforces the codes, it should be "mine". Oh, and since it just annexed this nice piece of property, I should probably annex everything between it and the current City limits line too. Give the City an inch and they'll try to grab miles. By the way, who's going to respond for fires at the airport?


Sun, Nov 8, 2009 : 3:47 p.m.

The stop construction issues between Ann Arbor and Pittsfield was all undertaken by the current Pittsfield administration. The old Pittsfield administration oversaw the complete planning of the old Landfill site, and the site plan / construction of the new Ann Arbor maintenance garage without such problems. Ann Arbor.Com needs to do a better job of reporting facts, not the here-say of Politicians.

Basic Bob

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 9:22 p.m.

I don't think the township has any say in the runway extension. But the best person to answer that is the township supervisor. After a whole year in office she found a way to blame the old administration for being uncooperative.

Bruce Amrine

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 5:45 p.m.

Looks like a rather childish "turf war" to me. I'm sure there's much that we don't understand about what's going on here, but it seems like there should be more productive ways to spend public mony than to argue about who has the "right" to inspect or collect fees on public facilities.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 4:27 p.m.

Does this mean the City can expand the runway without Township approval?

Basic Bob

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 12:24 a.m.

The city owns the land that the airport sits on, but it has not been annexed to the city. This is similar to the state-owned land (U-M) in the city, in that no property tax is collected.


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:24 p.m.

Or perhaps a "city appendage"?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 7:14 p.m.

Or is it a "city island"?


Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 6:52 p.m.

"The city owns the airport, but the land is in Pittsfield Township." Does the city lease the land?