Leighton air park issue will be decided by voters next year

Kate Scheltema

A grass-roots group opposed to an air strip in Leighton Township has filed more than enough petition signatures to place the issue on the ballot either next May or August.

Leighton Township Clerk Mary Lou Nieuwenhuis confirmed to the Penasee Globe that the Friends of Leighton Township this week turned in at least 340 signatures, more than the 281 required to put the issue before the voters in a referendum.

The development is the latest of many in more than two years since developer Clark Galloway and his partner, Leighton Township Supervisor Steve Deer, announced plans to turn an old runway used by the Martin family near 144th Avenue and Kalamazoo Avenue into a private air strip for seven planes and four residences.

The vote may be held as early as May because there likely will be a state-wide vote on legalizing medical marijuana after petition signatures on that issue recently were filed in Lansing. Otherwise, it will be decided in the August 2018 primary.


Kate Scheltema, owner of a nearby horse farm, has spearheaded the effort to oppose the air park, insisting it will be a nuisance, creates safety issues and is inappropriate for an area that is rural, residential and agricultural.

The Leighton Township Planning Commission last spring recommended on a 3-2 vote to reject the rezoning request to accommodate the air park, but the Leighton Township Board voted 4-0, with Deer abstaining, to approve it in October. Deer did not take part in any public deliberations on the matter in order to avoid appearances of impropriety.

Leighton officials have insisted the developers followed the proper procedures and they said it is their belief a majority of township citizens are not opposed to the project.

Galloway has told the Globe plans for the project will now be on hold until after voters have spoken.

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