Protestors Picket City Council Meeting

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MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren
Protesters gathered outside Middleton City Hall before the council meeting Tuesday night to express their concerns for a change in classification at the Middleton Municipal Airport.

MIDDLETON–Two dozen people picketed outside the Middleton City Hall Nov. 5 before the city council meeting to oppose a change to airspace classification the council was set to vote on, and oppose any airport expansion. The council tabled the airspace classification until an ongoing master plan is completed

Steve Ziegler who owns property adjacent to the airport said he was at the airport commission meeting where the change in airspace regulations was proposes and found it troubling.

“What really concerns me is that in 20 years there is this airspace definition that needs to be quickly adjusted one week notice to a commission, brought to the chamber here with one month in the middle of a master plan study, $250,000, two-and-a-half-year study and all of the sudden we are redesigning airspace because of a petition that was brought forth to a commission with less than one week to study it, that was very confused by it,” Zeigler said. 

Zeigler asked the council to delay the change until further research could be done. He said it’s been described as a safety issue but the airport manager said there was no concern or awareness he had of safety issues.

Zeigler said the city should wait until the airport master plan is complete before quickly changing airspace regulations.

The Airport Commission voted 5-1 to recommend that the council petition the FAA to change the airspace from Class G (uncontrolled) to Class E (controlled). Chair John Hallick proposed this initiative as a way to enhance safety and reduce noise because planes not in the process of taking off or landing would have to fly a little higher. 

The commission recognized Class E surface area requires three mile visibility and a cloud height of at least 1,500 ft. to fly therefore, the change in airspace would reduce some pilots' ability to fly during certain type of inclement weather.

Kevin Munson explained during the public comment period that he was the one who requested the FAA petition for a change in airspace. He said he is a 40-year commercial pilot and instructor, and added the request had nothing to do with a potential expansion of the airport. 

Munson said the change meant tightening regulations and that certain planes must fly 500 ft. below the clouds while approaching the airport. He said he witnessed an egregious act where a plane was flying right below the deck of the clouds which is dangerous for planes approaching through clouds and relying on instruments rather than a visual flight path.

Munson said Middleton airport is the only one he has seen with instrument approaches that do not have weather regulations. He added that he will petition the FAA for the change in airspace even if city council does not. 

Richard Morey, manager at Morey Field, said the change would negatively impact his flight school, but is about safety and setting tighter rules in weather, which he supports.

Jeff Russel said he was a pilot and was against the change because it would lower the utility of the airport. He said it would also require planes to fly lower when there are clouds because of the requirements.

Ald. Robert Burke said he voted ‘no’ at the airport commission meeting, and said he could not vote in good conscious because how quickly it was moving.

“What is the reason to do this if there is no clear benefit,” Burke asked. Burke suggested abandoning the item altogether. 

Ald. Luke Fuszard made a motion to table the item until after the master plan process was completed or until the council choose to take it up. The motion was approved unanimously.

Regarding expansion there were no other items on the agenda relating to the airport. During the protest Ziegler says, “Behind the scenes there has been a lot of things going on that point to people wanting to expand the airport.”

During the public comment period many protestors spoke in opposition to a potential expansion to the airport. Zeigler says any expansion would have to be into the Town of Middleton or Town of Springfield.

“If there is any expansion to the airport it would have to expand into Town of Middleton lands or Town of Springfield lands,” Ziegler says. “There is no land which the city owns that the city could expand the airport into and both the Town of Middleton and Town of Springfield are pretty adamantly opposed to the taking of land in the townships.”


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