Hearing turbulent for proposed Leighton Twp. air park

by Austin Marsman

More than 100 people turned out for a two-hour public hearing before the Leighton Township Board Monday evening on a proposal to develop an air park.

The original proposal was submitted more than a year ago. It called for a 3,000-foot air strip for use by 25 planes, along with 15 residences. A scaled down proposal, put forth by Galloway Landings, calls for a 2,000-foot air strip for use by five planes and just four residences. The Leighton Township Planning Commission voted 3-2 at an April meeting to recommend the Township Board decide against the air strip proposed for the corner of Kalamazoo Avenue and 144th Avenue.
All board members were present Monday, except for Supervisor Steve Deer. He is a partner in this proposed project and has excused himself from the matter to avoid a conflict of interest.
Developer Clark Galloway came before the Township Board with a presentation of his plan and said that developing the air strip would be “better than alternatives.” He also said of the project, “If not here, then where?”.
Twelve people went on record in support of the proposed air park. Some were local plane enthusiasts, others were people who believed it would be “good for the community” and that Galloway has the “freedom to use [his] land.”
Those opposing the were vocal about the potential for noise from planes, possible accidents and planes flying close to homes.
Kate Scheltema, who operates a horse farm in the middle of the proposed development, is directly affected. She trains horses for vaulting and other equestrian events and is concerned about the planes “spooking” her horses. In early June, a boarder at the Scheltema Farm was riding her horse and testified that Galloway flew overhead, scaring her horse and those nearby.
A legal representative for those opposing the air park said that the “next step is to file a petition and insist on a community referendum” if the board is to green light the proposal.
Township Treasurer Char Troost commented on the evening by saying “We’ve heard a lot of information tonight…it is time to reflect”.
PHOTOS: (Courtesy of Austin Marsman):
More than 100 citizens were in attendance at hearing at the Leighton Township Hall.
Developer Clark Galloway shares his plan
Kate Scheltema points out her property in relation to the air strip


  • We have horses, goats, and donkeys. We don’t always appreciate all the noise in the neighborhood. People complain because the donkeys bray. The township tried to make us get rid of our animals because we are now zoned residential. when we moved here we were ag and were never notified of the zoning change because they didn’t have to back then is what we were told. I have lived on the same road for more than 50 yrs of my 60 yr life. We put up with lagoon churning and spreading smells, heifers crying, loud firecrackers all year, motor bikes and ATV’s, pesticides and fertilizers from GMO processing plants, gun shoots from target practice and skeet shooting. We also have ultralights, Cessna’s, and hot air balloons flying over anytime of day or evening. I am not complaining about these things because I choose to live here.
    But this airstrip being fought on the grounds that it is scaring someone’s horses irritates me. My horses are conditioned to all these noises and things going on around them making them better animals. They don’t spook as easy and this is a good thing they show curiosity about balloons landing in the fields, Cessna’s and ultralights flying low over them. This horse owner should be glad to get her horses conditioned to different things in their environment. I wouldn’t want a horse that could spook in a trailer because a fire truck goes by. Or one that while a young person is showing the horse in an arena or riding on the road and has something happens to spook them. Her animals should be spook proof because of this air strip experience. We house rescue animals that have no experience with any of the noises that happen around here and they adjust and do not even seem concerned.
    I am not saying I am for the air strip, we already have one. But this person proposing it, will be paying higher taxes and it is his property. Our neighbors own cows and they house them in enclosed buildings not allowing for free range, so they can plant more crops. I don’t think this is right but I am not going say they can’t do it. They pay their taxes and own the land.

    • Hi Melanie – I wanted to respond to your comment because the airpark is not being fought simply on the grounds that horses are being spooked. Our horses are conditioned and trained well but the airstrip they claim has been in place and used for 40 years has not been used regularly since 2011 and not at all since 2012. As a non conforming use, which has never been legal through the township, the old airstrip cannot be revitalized after 9 months of non use according to the township ordinance. I have horses who regularly trailer in for lessons who will not have the opportunity to be conditioned as they don’t live here. The horses here on this farm now are not the ones who were here in 2011 and are not conditioned because there have been no flights until very recently. I run a very professional barn and my students compete in national level of eventing up to the Intermediate and Preliminary level (look it up) and one will begin competing at the international level at an FEI CIC* and CCI* this year. I take great pride in the care and well being of the horses in my care and my boarders and students will attest to that. I do not appreciate planes flying 15-30 feet over the top of any of our horses. It is very unfortunate that the news agencies following this story have over simplified the issues and our objections. There were many reasons for objections to the airpark but spooking horses is the one they seem to gravitate to because it is something that everyone can understand. Most of the reasons are quite complicated. The main reason for objecting to the airpark is due to Federal Preemption. In a nutshell, this means that the township has no legal way of monitoring what happens to this land once it is rezoned (yes, they have asked to be rezoned from residential/agricultural to INDUSTRIAL ). The developer has promised many things such as number of flights, size of planes, hours of operations, number of guests who can fly in, direction and layout of the runway, etc. But if this proposal is approved, the developer can instantly and without recourse, change his plans, reroute the runway, fly larger planes, increase the number and frequency of flights, fly any time of day or night, pave the runway, add jets, etc. This is not an exaggeration as so many people have been told. I hope this provides a bit more information and I’m happy to provide more if you have further questions.

  • Thanks, Austin, for a very informative article. I still like to keep up on things from the old home town, and you do an admirable job putting forward all the facts.

Leave a Comment