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April 18, 2024

Fact Checking / Responsible Reporting – County Airports and Zoning

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On September 7, 2016


On August 27, 2016, Gary Henry reported that Robert Howrey stated “IDOT estimates approximately half of the county-owned airports in Illinois are not zoned.” He also stated “IDOT was not willing to acknowledge de facto zoning existed because of FAA rules, which take precedence over local action because Bogue raised the question...”

We had previously reported on March 16, 2016, Edgar County had the only county-owned airport in Illinois where the airport did not have zoning in the county. The article was in response to County Board Member Heltsley’s inaccurate comment that “This not only affects us . . . many downstate airports are located in areas without zoning.”

After reading Henry’s article, a FOIA request was immediately fired off to IDOT Div of Aeronautics for two purposes; first, to see if the claim was accurate, and second, to correct our past article if IDOT’s information was correct. Turned out the claim was not correct and we did not have to correct our article.

First, to the second comment from Robert Howrey about the so-called “de facto zoning” – the statute requires Edgar County to enact zoning for airport purposes.:

No land may be used for the expansion of airport landing fields until it has been zoned for airport purposes by the county or municipality having the zoning power over such land, as the case may be.

That statutory language throws out any acknowledgment of any “de facto zoning” by IDOT. FAA rules apply for airport safety purposes. Federal grants even state that recipient must follow all federal and state law and rules. Edgar County failed to do that.


Received today from IDOT in response to a FOIA request – which was not the requested information (county airports without zoning was what was requested):

This letter is in response to your Illinois Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request dated August 28, 2016, and received by the Illinois Department of Transportation on August 29, 2016. We conducted a search and found the following information responsive to your Request.   Below please find a list of county sponsored airports that the Department has identified via the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.   Please be advised, that pursuant to the 630 ILCS 40, The General County Airport and Landing Field Act, the zoning requirements of these airports fall under the jurisdiction of the individual counties.   Therefore, please direct any specific zoning inquires for each airport to the appropriate county. 

Scott AFB/Midamerica   
Effingham County Memorial
Marshall County
Logan County
Williamson County Regional
Coles County Memorial
Edgar County
Crawford Co
Shelby County
Vermilion County Regional Airport
Whiteside County-Jos H Bittorf Field

IDOT responded that the above 11 airports are county-owned (sponsored) airports and that the zoning requirements of 630 ILCS 40 fall under the jurisdiction of individual counties. I read that as an indication IDOT believed these 11 airports to be county-owned and fall under 630 ILCS 40.

  • Scott AFB/Midamerica, Coles County Regional, Crawford County, Williamson County Regional, and Vermilion County Regional Airport are all “Airport Authorities”, are not county owned (sponsored), and do not fall under 630 ILCS 40. They fall under the Airport Authorities Act, 70 ILCS 5
  • Whiteside County-Jos H Bittorf Field is a county-owned airport, has zoning, but falls under 630 ILCS 45, not -40
  • Shelby County Airport is owned by an Airport and Landing Commission and has zoning (click here)
  • Logan County Airport is a county-owned airport and has zoning (click here)
  • Marshall County is a county-owned airport, and has zoning (click here)
  • Effingham County Memorial Airport is a county-owned airport, is operated by an Airport Commission, but does not fall under 630 ILCS 40. Airports with Commissions are by definition Airport Authorities under the Airport Authorities Act, 70 ILCS 5

Finally, Gary Henry could have written an article that was factually correct by simply questioning Robert Howrey and/or IDOT Division of Aeronautics for clarification on how they came about stating that “approximately half of the county-owned airports in Illinois are not zoned.”

It is not true, and Edgar County is the ONLY Illinois Airport owned by a county falling under 630 ILCS 40 which does not have zoning.

The issue is whether or not Edgar County was unique among other airports, and they are unique being the only airport in its situation without zoning as we previously reported.

We don’t know if IDOT just stated something without checking it for accuracy, or if what they said was misunderstood by the receiver of the message. Either way, we have once again provided our readers with the correct information.

Another FOIA request has been sent to IDOT for further clarification on their response to the first FOIA – just in case we or they missed something important.
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1 Comment
  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 08:30h, 08 September

    The facts as I know them.

    – Edgar County is the only county airport in Illinois, that is known to have expanded…in violation of Illinois Law for lack of zoning.

    – The FAA and IDOT-IDOA have halted expansion monies for this reason.

    – If zoning is established:it would appear that airport expansion funding could resume immediately: but that possibility has been challenged on different levels and remains unresolved.

    – If zoning should go into effect, Edgar County Residents will be affirming the continuance and protection of proposed projects funded by FAA-IDOA for the next 20 years. That’s about a 3 million dollar investment by Edgar County Residents at about 150K per year.

    – There are no free monies regardless of what has been said. Each project at our airport is funded at the approximate levels of 5% Edgar County, 5% State of Illinois and 90% FAA funds.

    – Farming revenue has been derived from “stolen” acquired land and used to fund airport expansion in the past and thereby circumventing much of the taxpayer input and approval.

    – Land has been taken from local residents through the tainted eminent domain process, and threats there of. Some claim ignorance of the law.

    – However it took over 2 years and a local took court action to force the county to disclose the law under which our airport was operating. It is that law that requires zoning around airports. Our officials knew they were violating Illinois Law and deliberately chose to do so.

    – Our airport needs a credit card machine at the fuel pumps in which to access fuel after hours…that’s less than $20,000.00 and far less than the $40-50-60,000.00 needed for the present expansion/development project.

    – In my opinion, residents should only support a county wide zoning action….such that, all residents will receive some level of protection against, Utility Power Lines crossing our county, Wind Turbine Farms and towers from being erected too close to residential housing and cell towers from being erected too close to residential housing (such as occurred with our county engineer).

    – Zoning is needed to protect all residents….against the reported health issues of these things as well as our residential property values.

    – I encourage the community to support of our existing airport as it is and to fund the credit card fuel access machine. The specific airport zoning issue can be tabled until a true need for expansion has been established.

    – We don’t need parking for aircraft that don’t exist.

    – We don’t need additional fuel tanks for fuel storage since we presently have a storage capacity have over one year of one fuel type and nearly 7 months of another based on recent fuel sales.

    – We don’t need to provide larger apron spaces for the occasional large aircraft that would be inconvenienced by a slight delay: should another aircraft be fueling at the existing fuel location. They can wait.

    – There appear to be less than 6 Edgar County residents that fly routinely and with aircraft stored at our airport.