Glide path puts zoning in question

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Apparent confusion on the outline of the glide path at the Chilton County Airport has led to a debate between the city of Clanton’s planning commission, the airport authority and the Chilton County Commission.

During a Tuesday planning commission hearing, land owner Lanis Robinson, who was seeking to have his Airport Road property rezoned from manufacturing to residential, ran into opposition from the county commission and the authority.

“We asked for the authority’s input and since they are opposed to it, then we are opposed to it,” county commissioner Red Turnipseed said. Turnipseed is the commission’s liaison to the county’s airport authority and represented the commission at Tuesday’s public hearing.

The county was invited to the public hearing because the property the airport rests is owned by the county and is adjacent to Robinson’s property.

Robinson, who has been working on improving the lot and building a home on the property, was unaware the property was zoned for manufacturing until recently. The property has always had homes on it but had never been zoned residential.

“I am just wanting to get everything in order and simply want it to be zoned for residential,” Robinson said. “I never would have guessed it was zoned manufacturing.”

In a letter from the airport authority to the commission this week, the group opposed the move because the property sat within the airport’s glide path — an imaginary line of approach for landing aircraft.

“A few years ago, the authority bought some property and cleared it out because it was in the glide path and was holding up some federal grants,” Robinson said. “I was told that my property was not in it. In fact, they left some very tall trees on their property just on the other side of my pond.”

No one from the airport authority was in attendance at the public hearing. But, Clanton city council member Mary Mell Smith, who is also a member of the planning commission, said she was aware of the authority reaching such a decision, saying she was never contacted for her thoughts.

“We may not have had a meeting, but we have e-mail,” Smith said. “I was unaware of any decision.”

In the letter the authority opposed the move because it was “our understanding that the rezoning of this parcel of property will allow the construction of single family apartment units in close proximity to the airport approach and departure path. The construction of residential units at this location will pose a significant safety hazard for aircraft operating at the Chilton County Airport as well as for families residing in these dwellings.”

The request on the part of Robinson was to rezone the property to R-1-B, which does not allow for any apartments to be built, rather limits the property to single-family dwellings only. In this case, Robinson intends to finish construction on a two-story home on the property.

“My concern is that if this was important enough to the airport authority then they should have had someone here and provide proof that this house would be in the glide path,” planning commission member Gene Martin said.

While the planning commission does not have the final say in the rezoning, they do provide recommendations to the city council for their approval.

The planning commission members voted unanimously to hold over their recommendation to their July 8 meeting, where they have asked the airport authority to provide “proof” the property on Airport Road lies within the airport’s glide path.