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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2007

Their options are few, airport neighbors in Erie Township told

ERIE, Mich. - Township attorney Phil Goldsmith told the Erie Township board and about 70 residents who attended last night's board meeting here that, in his opinion, the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, not the township, controls the zoning for public-use airports in the state.

"There is no doubt or question in my mind that the commission promotes airports in the state of Michigan. It is not all too sensitive to landowners that surround airports," Mr. Goldsmith said. "And the aeronautics commission, they do not listen to townships."

Cheryl Martin, one of many residents adjacent to the Erie Aerodrome on Temperance Road just west of Telegraph Road, said she worries about the increased traffic that would occur as a result of the airport's proposed expansion. Many other residents complained about the likely devaluation of their homes.

A few weeks ago, township officials met with aeronautics commission officials who explained that the aerodrome was under their jurisdiction. That means the township has no role in regulating the airport's development.

In addition to the airport's half-mile, grass runway, the airport offers airplane repairs, has two hangars, and regularly houses about six small, single-engine airplanes.

Its owner and original developer, Howard Crowe, 68, of Erie, would like to retire and in April, 2005, signed a contract to sell the airport to David Germann of Chesterfield, Mich.

"I'm a pilot. Small airports are dwindling, and I'd like to save that airport," Mr. Germann said. "I am just trying to protect Howard Crowe's rights and my rights for our livelihood."

Mr. Germann said the contract was conditional on him being able to build additional hangars on the property.

In addition to airplane repairs and flying lessons, one of the main revenue sources for small airports is renting out hangar space.

According to the 20-year build plan, Mr. Germann would look to build 62 hangars, a larger parking lot, and an office building. The state approved the plan; the township rejected it.

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