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May 27, 2024

Zoning in Edgar County – What’s the rush?

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 29, 2016


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.

What’s Next?

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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  • Ed
    Posted at 17:45h, 29 May Reply

    Leave them good ole boys alone. By God they been farming around here for years. This is their county. You’re lucky they let you breath their air.

  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 11:30h, 30 May Reply

    Nice article John and thank you.

    For those familiar with the Edgar County Airport, clearly there is less aviation traffic at the airport and far less in fuel sales than in the past. Far less than when the east runway land and the cross wind runway land: and when the Harper ground was purchased: all in violation of Illinois Law.
    So why is it now, so important to proceed with a zoning process ……….who’s only purpose is driven by airport expansion for ghost airplanes that do or don’t exist in Edgar County?
    The facts are: Zoning IS NOT, IS NOT, IS NOT, a requirement of maintaining our airport. It is only a requirement for expanding our airport and that expansion………. can be done at any time in the future.
    There are other programs here in Edgar County that are underfunded or not funded that offer far more benefit to our taxpayer base as a whole than from a new airport expansion costing the federal, state and local residents hundreds of thousands of dollars: no make that millions of dollars?

    With only a few hangers in use by local residents and some in use by Indiana residents…those directly benefiting from this of project seem very few in number. Know this, this county already contributes $85,000 each year to run the airport and gives the airport another $60,000 in income derived from it’s operation.
    You know, with this money we could pay off the county debt, fund our drug war, fix our jail and who knows what else? What an idea!
    In regards to the fuel tanks, the airport already has more than one years fuel storage capacity for each of it’s fuels…so how much fuel do we need to keep on hand? But wait, is there another problem? The county has the money in which to install credit cards readers on their fuel pumps and can so at any time for a pittance compared to 1.28 million. The airport does not need to expand at this time.
    This county board now has the opportunity to do the right thing and return Don Farris’s land. That is; unless they are in support of the illegal eminent domain process that was used to take his land. Sadly it appears they don’t have a problem in taking Don’s land or anyone else’s.
    Don has indicted to me, that our county board prefers to keep his land even though it does not have any concrete or runway on it. Since it was taken, it has only produced crops and income for the county airport. Returning his 9.2 acres of land to him does not affect the operation of the airport.
    Something else; perhaps as notable is the “other” former land owners…those that have lost their property, were offered an under the table lifetime farming agreement which………. Don Farris was not. WHY, WHY, WHY NOT just follow the law and do the right thing?

  • Will
    Posted at 21:03h, 29 August Reply

    Oops wrong again. Looks like Federal law supercedes State statute. Nice going on giving the county a big run around for nothing.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 21:13h, 29 August Reply

      Since Illinois is a block-grant state, the state is responsible for following all “federal” and “state” laws.
      If you know something we don’t know, please fill us in on it.

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