Plans to extend the runway at the Starke County Airport by 5,000 feet received the county council’s blessing Monday evening. Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver says the local facility is part of the National Airport System Plan and is therefore eligible for money from the Federal Aviation Administration. He adds those funds come from excise taxes levied on the aviation industry by the federal government.
The FAA paid for 80 percent of the land costs when the Starke County Airport was built. Weaver says they now cover 90 percent of costs related to airport use. The airport board pays 7.5 percent, and the state picks up the remaining 2.5 percent. In order to qualify for funds, Weaver says the FAA has asked Starke County to update their Air Hazard Zoning Ordinance in order to protect their investment from encroachment by subdivisions, hospitals, schools and that sort of thing. In Starke County’s case, Weaver says there’s nothing around the airport because the soils are not conducive to development.
Weaver adds the ordinance change will not affect any current agricultural or residential land use. It does stipulate an landfill cannot be located within five miles of the site. Also a hospital or school must be at least a mile away. Restrictions also include the placement of bright lights that could potentially interfere with a pilot’s eyesight and the placement of cell phone towers and wind turbines. Weaver says the restrictions are less restrictive farther away from the airport.
The Starke County Council approved the ordinance unanimously. No timeline has been given for the proposed airport runway expansion.