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Panel OKs regulation of tall structures near airstrips

EUREKA – The Woodford Zoning Board of Appeals has approved a proposed ordinance that would regulate the building of tall structures, such as wind towers and grain bins, within 5,000 feet of an airstrip.

The county’s nine existing airstrips are all located in rural areas, near El Paso, Hudson, Benson, Secor, Minonk and between Roanoke and Washburn.

The issue will be sent to the full county board with a recommendation to approve it from the ZBA.

Proponents say the air strips represent substantial private investments and need protection from being shut down if tall structures are built close enough to affect the safety of incoming and outgoing air traffic.

The proposed ordinance restricts building structures more than 150 feet high within the designated area of about a half-mile in all directions unless a variance would be granted.

Structures targeted could include meteorological towers, wind turbines, grain bins or grain legs, among other structures, but not cell towers, which are federally regulated and do not fall under county ordinances.

Jack Oltman, who owns an airstrip between Benson and Minonk, said he would have had 13 turbines within 1.5 miles of his strip had the Roanoke Wind Farm be built.

The air strips are used for private, recreational flying and by crop dusters during crop season.

However, pilots have used the strips in emergencies and they are the only landing areas in Woodford County, which lacks a commercial public airport.