A fifteen minute discussion over private airstrips was the big topic at Tuesday's July 3, 2012 Mercer County Board meeting.
Dr. Brian Anseeuw, Mercer County Board member, asked that concerns regarding issues between the Mercer County Zoning office and Mercer County citizens be put on the July 3, 2012 agenda -- specifically speaking to some restricted landing strips certain property holders have.
Gerald Young of Viola asked the board what preceded the Mercer County Zoning Officer's letter to various Mercer County airstrip owners. He wondered whether the letters had anything to do with the county's pending sale of the Mercer County Airport.
Speaking on behalf of himself and another airstrip owner Russell Orwig of North Henderson he asked, "What precipitated this letter after 55 years or 65 years respectively of owning our landing strips?"
Orwig told the board his airstrip was registered with the state in 1955, before Mercer County even had zoning ordinances regarding landing strips. He said in 1997 he had the airstrip decertified.
He said he did not like the tone of the letter. "Our two airports existed before there was zoning," he said.
Board member Floyd Utz said, "I had no idea this letter was going out."
Mercer County States attorney Gregory McHugh said he could answer why the letters went out. "I asked zoning to contact everyone who had an airstrip."
He went on to explain that the previous year there was a possible investigation going on about an airstrip and that rather than discriminate against just one, all needed to be contacted.
A third citizen, Ron Peterson, talked about how he owned five acres and was learning how to fly. "If I want to land my plane on my own property, what do I have to do?"
Anseeuw told him that a lot depends on the size and type of airplane. "You just can't land your airplane there (because it's your land).
Peterson was told that more information was needed to answer his questions.
Board member Anseeuw also spoke, deriding the current Zoning Officer Davina Logsden, asking "what are her credentials?"
He lividly called the letter "bullying our citizens."
He also had some digs for the state's attorney office, showing the board the letter he received about his enterprise The Big Red Barn and a case leveled by the county for improper zoning. He said one of the charges about a wedding reception taking place was actually at a Big Red Barn in Ft. Collins, Colo.
McHugh defended the zoning officer, saying he asked her "Not" to come to this meeting.
Board member Utz said he did not find the letter to be harsh, adding he had received a letter last year asking some questions about some of his property as well.
McHugh said "inquiry" letters went out to all known Mercer County landowners who had an airstrip on their property, so as not to discriminate against any one landowner. "We are just updating our records" in regards to Ag-1 zoned private landing strips, said McHugh.
Eventually discussion ended and the board got back to its regular agenda.
In other business the board learned the Mercer County Hospital transfer to Genesis has been sidetracked by the Illinois Hospital Facilities Planing Board. According to Ted Rogalski, that board believed the transfer of ownership had already occurred.
"We can't transfer ownership until the state gives its blessing."