Archived Story

Land battle must soon be resolved

Published 1:04pm Thursday, September 27, 2012

The concept of eminent domain — the government’s ability to essentially force a citizen to sell property for what some elected officials determine to be a greater public good — always sparks strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

A case right here at home that involves the Lawrence County Commissioners, the Lawrence County Airport and two private development companies is a perfect illustration of this.

The county is seeking more than 40 acres through this process in order to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements in regards to clearance of trees and other obstructions at both ends of the runway at the Chesapeake airport.

The family that owns the property doesn’t think the current offer is fair.

Both are probably right.

If the county chose not to keep the airport operational, all of the property would revert to the family. But since it plans to do so — an idea that certainly could be debated for its own merits — cutting these trees and acquiring this additional property is absolutely vital. At least two planes have crashed there in recent years.

But the family is correct in seeking better compensation. Although the acreage itself may not be worth more than the offer, maintaining the airport does have a financial impact on the family and the nearby property values and its potential usage. So it is reasonable to seek more compensation.

Hopefully both sides can come to an agreement sooner rather than later, keeping this out of court and allowing public safety to be the focus as quickly as possible.


  • Poor Richard

    Well, maybe our expert, Mr. Marktime can tell us how much money the airport generates vs. the costs. I’m all ears! As a taxpayer I’ve been asking this question for over a year and have not heard a peep from local officials. But since marktime is the expert maybe he could fill us taxpayers in – specific numbers would be nice.

    I read your comment and from it did not pull anything substantial that is accomplished at the airport. Yes, it has given flying lessons. The comment only provides information about what the airport ‘could’ do, so what has it done over the past 40 years? What does it do now? Where is the feasibility study for the changes after acquiring the 40 acres? Is it online? Available to taxpayers?

    In my opinion, the county does not care about an airport, they only care about maintaining control over that land to which some future date eminent domain will be attempted on the entire property.

    Lets see, marktime you did make a good point, we do have two other airports within 15 minutes of the county and another larger airport about 60 minutes from the county, oh, and yet two other larger airports within 160 minutes of the county – what purpose does Lawrence County airport serve? This morning I was in my yard and had to come in my house because of an extremely loud private plane flying over – maybe the FAA should check that!

    Mowed? I would encourage all taxpayers to drive by the airport and look at the 3 foot high grass and the invasive kudzu everywhere. Mowed? Really? Gee, maybe my eyes need checked.

    (Report comment)

  • marktime

    If “Poor Richard” gets his way, the only airport in Lawrence County Ohio would close and the land would go back to the Wilson family (ie Richard Wilson). The airport property sits on what was previously flood zone property and was built in 1929. Over the years millions of pilots have learned to fly at small airports just like Lawrence County Airpark. During World War II newly trained graduates from Marshall where given their first ten hours of flight training at the airport.

    The adjacent properties which Wilson (Poor Richard?) still owns but is mostly flood zone property needs to be cleared to provide safe take off and landing zones. Very little commercial flights happen at Lawrence County because of the trees at each end! Commercial flights need longer runways and safe tree free approach paths. Lawrence County has missed out on millions of dollars of FAA grant money over the past years due to not meeting minimum runway approach zone safety requirements. Other local airports get money each year for new hangers, buildings, fences, parking lots, runway paving, lighting enhancements, and other capital improvements that provide local JOBS! A safer airport will attract more aircraft from competing airports like Ashland, Huntington and Ona. Full time jobs for mechanics, flight instructors and office staff are at stake here. The Wilsons want the land back for their own development plans. The improvements to raise the property out of the flood zone were NOT paid for by the Wilsons but by local donations from the Chamber of Commerce and the Pilots Club back in the 1930′s.

    Mowing of the airport is currently done by members and friends of the Tri-state Pilots Association who are volunteers that work for FREE. The county spends nothing on maintenance at the airport. Some of the airport is mowed for hay two or three times a year by a local farmer.

    “Poor Richard” needs to study up and realize that the taxpayers are the employees at the airport…it generates tax dollars NOT costing the county anything!

    (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    Two ‘private planes’ crashed – not business or commerical planes. Again, leading to the viability and need of an airport. I’ve asked this question many times and have yet to see an answer in the newspaper – WHAT IS THE AIRPORT COSTING TAXPAYERS ANNUALLY AND WHAT HAS THE AIRPORT COST THE COUNTY OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS?? WHAT ARE THEIR PLANS FOR THE AIRPORT?

    The eminent domain is asked using the FAA regulations as the ‘excuse’ to obtain private land for supposedly the greater public good – but what public? The only ones apparently benefitting from this airport are the private planes that fly around the county annoying citizens. So, the greater good, really, is just a bunch of folks wealthy enough to afford planes. There is no “for the public good” in this situation. It’s a farce.

    I passed the airport a couple of weeks ago and it looks like a jungle. It seems that no one has mowed it or kept it up lately so what is going on there? The county commission threw the guy off that had mowed it for years and I guess whatever buddy they replaced him with can’t keep up with mowing. If they can’t maintain what they have now how are they going to maintain another 40 acres? What do they REALLY want that land for?

    In my opinion, the county has initial plans to obtain the 40 acres but long term eminent domain plans to obtain the entire airport away from the Wilson family and once that happens I don’t think it will remain an ‘airport’ for long. Wilson’s need to pay attention, I believe this is only the preliminary attack and really has much more to do with the ‘land’ than an airport.

    (Report comment)

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