PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –
Over the past two years, a Federal Airport Grant was stopped THREE times: once due to a fraudulent grant application in which the former airport manager Jimmy Wells received a letter of appreciation for (even after it was known the grant application was a fraud), another due to questions of whether the law allowed Edgar County to expand its airport, and a third time because it was revealed and verified by IDOT Division of Aeronautics and their attorney that Edgar County was in violation of two prior grant assurance contracts because the county did not have zoning in place.
The law states that no expansions at the airport can occur unless and until the airport is zoned for airport purposes. Which means that the prior two expansions were in violation of the law, and by default in violation of those grant assurance, which are, a contract with the federal government that they will comply with all laws for the duration of the project (normally 20 years).
Once the county board was notified that zoning was required in order to obtain any further funds for expansion or improvement at the airport, the local newspaper (not the Beacon News) wrote article after article pointing the finger at Rob Bogue for filing the complaint with IDOT, when they should have pointed the finger at the county board for acting in violation of law and virtually condoning fraudulent grant applications. Why get mad at the police officer because you got caught speeding? Whose fault is it?
Thank you Rob, for continuing to hold the county board accountable.
Once the zoning issue was thrust into the forefront, it became evident that the county board had expanded in violation of law, and as a result, the county board had used imminent domain to steal real estate for two projects that violated the law. Now they refuse to do the right thing and give the real estate back to its former and rightful owner. Keep in mind, this real estate has nothing on it, the county is farming it out for cash rent, and could easily operate with an air rights easement similar to other property they fly over.
The county could simply petition the court to overturn the imminent domain ruling due to the entire process being in violation of establish law, which would give the real estate back to its rightful owner.
The Zoning Issue
In order to establish zoning, the county board must first appoint a Zoning Commission.
The job of the Zoning Commission is to hold at least one public hearing, to investigate the zoning requirements, to write the county zoning ordinance, to hold a meeting and vote to approve the ordinance they wrote, and them wait for the county board to review and vote on the ordinance at a public meeting.
Once the county board approves the Zoning Ordinance, the zoning commission is dissolved and Edgar County has zoning.
What appears to be happening, is the county board simply wants to hand the zoning commission a finished product for rubber-stamping, and hold a faux hearing without taking any testimony from the hearing into meaningful consideration.
During the May 23, 2016 Edgar County Board Study Session (video here), board member Lorenzen talked about:
- Appointments to the Zoning Commission
- Who to appoint to the commission
- Public Hearing requirements
- “Cut and Paste” into the document to give the commission for the hearing
- Try to complete the zoning ordinance “under the wire” for IDOT’s June contract letting
- Environmental issues are still unresolved with the proposed project
- When is the deadline for project letting
The entire conversation appeared to be about how fast this Zoning Ordinance could be completed when instead it should have been about how to complete a good, comprehensive ordinance to avoid future problems.
There were no discussions on including adjacent or affected land-owners in any discussions or decisions related to the airport zoning.
They are counting on those land-owner to simply allow them to zone their property without any pushback – even though they are zoning for projects completed in violation of the law.
Once zoning is established in Edgar County is will be easy to keep expanding it beyond the airport.
Zoning allows all kinds of restrictions to be placed for whatever the county board decides to zone next, be it building permits, grass height (the health department is already pushing that issue) on rural property, business location on rural property, and all types of general encroachment onto private property rights.
Don’t think for a second it will not happen because we all know it will. Whether it be for wind turbines, cell towers, power lines, pig farms, grass too tall, use of firearms, or against someone who they think keeps too many cars parked on their rural property. It will happen.
Main Airport Hangar Proposals
There was only one proposal submitted to lease out the main airport hangar – and from the discussion, it appears the board received a proposal involving less rent than what they had been receiving. Good job! Run out the high rent payer, and get someone that will pay you less rent.
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