Referendum on Leighton air park is not a good idea

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor

I hear tell the group of citizens opposing the air park in Leighton Township plan to have the issue eventually settled at the ballot box next year.

My immediate response is, “Good luck with that.”

I misread the Township Board’s attitude on this matter before it voted 4-0 twice to allow Supervisor Steve Deer and developer Clark Galloway to install an air strip near the corner of 144th and Kalamazoo Avenues, but I don’t see how this is going to end well. Extending the issue further will only create more division within the community, necessitate more spending of money and exacerbate already raw feelings.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I agree with the 10 neighbors considering a referendum on the air park. I’ve said consistently that I regard the air strip to be simply a “playground for the privileged” that does not serve the rural agricultural community well. Furthermore, because of the airport located within Leighton Township’s borders near the bowling alley, I don’t see it as necessary.

Nonetheless, I think the ballgame is over, and my side lost. I don’t like it, but I have to get over it and move on.

The air park’s neighbors promise to circulate petitions to voters, maintaining the citizens in township should decide this rather than the board. I can already hear the explanation that “Signing this petitions doesn’t mean you oppose the air strip, it just means you want the people to decide.”

This is reminiscent of the citizens’ group opposed to the arrival in Wayland of the Windsor Woods mobile home park near the U.S.-131 expressway in 1987. The Planning Commission and City Council made the zoning changes to make the development possible and angry local residents gathered enough signatures in retaliation to put the issue to a vote.

Though citizens cried foul about the referendum wording, the mobile home park was approved by a decisive margin at the ballot box.

I see many similarities in the current situation.

Making matters worse for these neighbors is that unscientific polling conducted by Township Board members has shown most people support allowing the air strip. This, despite the very logical and vocal opposition brought to Planning Commission and Township Board meetings. This, despite valid concerns raised by these impassioned neighbors.

There also have been legal actions taken in court, further drawing out the drama.

My point here is that there comes a time when the best course of action is to accept the decision of the board, which seems to have followed the rules properly. Though the citizens have a right to seek redress of grievances, in this case the cause seems to be lost. They fought a valiant battle, but it’s over.


  • You are correct about the poor chances of a ballot referendum of the township doesn’t care. You can see that exhibited in the Nov ’16 election results. Mr. Deer was re-elected for another term to be Township Supervisor almost 12 months AFTER he and his business partner in the airpark (Mr. Galloway) tried to slide its approval into the Nov ’15 township meeting following an agate type announcement in the back pages of the Penasee Globe.

    Mr. Deer ran unopposed and got 2454 votes and write-ins got 30 of the 2484 votes cast. That alone sent a message to the rest of the board that there would be zero political risk in approving the air park. Then the board, sans Supervisor Deer, took part in a political kabuki play appearing to care about planning commission input until they voted unanimously to approve. Done deal. Just took longer than originally planned.

    The only chance of stopping the air park would be more litigation and a judge who would order a cease and desist order on at least the runway portion of the approved development prior to construction. Odds of that happening are between slim and none.

  • I hope that litigation exposes the Leighton Township Board’s unmatched display of stupidity, immorality, and corruption all combined. Living in four countries, four states, and here, I have never seen anything quite like this.

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