LEIGHTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Dozens of Leighton Township residents expressed their frustration with a proposed airpark in their backyards and the lack of transparency they said they have seen up to this point.
In November 2015, investors proposed building Green Lake Landings, an airpark including a 3,000-foot airstrip on land purchased that already has a 42-year-old 1,800-foot airstrip previously owned by the local Martin family.
However, Leighton Township Supervisor Steve Deer told FOX 17 Thursday that he is an investor in this project, and therefore he is unable to disclose specifics. "Yes, I am one of the owners in the proposed airpark," said Deer. "Because I’m also the township supervisor, there’s an obvious conflict of interest. Because of the conflict of interest, I am restricted from explaining to people anything about the airpark."
Kate Scheltema told FOX 17 this conflict of interest is problematic. "It absolutely does not feel transparent with Mr. Deer, being the township supervisor, he’s not able to talk about this,” Scheltema said. “We felt blindsided.”
Scheltema and her family have lived in Leighton Township for the past 16 years. They live and work on their property,Green Gables Farm, where they train and board competitive sport horses. The farm sits adjacent to the proposed airpark.
Scheltema isn’t alone in opposition of the airpark: she and more than 85 residents are members of the Facebook group Stop the Airpark.
Each is worried they may lose the pastoral nature of their properties to a noisy runway.
“We are directly at the end of the runway, so the planes will be taking off and going directly over the barn, directly over the pastures and the paddocks,” said Scheltema. “It makes it very difficult for anyone to come over here and enjoy their horse.”
Not only does Scheltema say neighbors got short notice about the proposal, she said she is frustrated by a lack of transparency from township leaders, especially since Deer is investing in the project.
Deer told FOX 17 that, as an investor in the project, he deferred to the township zoning administration to discuss specifics, and he said he will abstain from voting on the airpark proposal.
“I’m a member of the township board, and we vote on those proposals to make them official,” said Deer. “I have voted on other ones that I’m not involved in. I will abstain from any vote on this one.”
Attorney Genie Eardley, representing Scheltema and other residents who oppose the airpark, raised several questions about the proposal, including how the airpark does not fit with the township’s standing master plan. "That’s why we sent a Freedom of Information Act request in to find out what plans have been presented, what surveys have been done, what’s the environmental impact,” said Eardley. “I mean, there’s a creek running through there, and a lake right next to it that’s really important to the township economically and for the people who live here.”
Green Lake Landings investor Clark Galloway told FOX 17 it is appropriate to have the township supervisor as an investor, and he feels confident in the township’s leadership to provide information to residents.
The next Leighton Township Planning Commission meeting is scheduled Feb. 10 at 7 p.m., though Deer said the agenda is still being determined.