Airstrip proposal returns for area off 300W

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HANCOCK COUNTY — A proposal for a private grass airstrip that drew concerns from residents of nearby neighborhoods in 2018 is coming back before county decision-makers.

Kurt Schleter is seeking the landing strip on a property of about 70 acres at 1323 N. County Road 300W owned by his company, Roadrage Solutions LLC. The site is north of the Sugar Creek Valley Estates neighborhood and west of Stone Ridge, where Schleter lives. His proposed airstrip — about 2,200 feet long and about 150 feet wide — would be on the far north side of the site, north and west of woods on the property.

Schleter flies his single-engine aircraft out of Indianapolis Regional Airport in Mt. Comfort. He wants the ease of storing, working on, taking off and landing his aircraft on his own property.

“It’s more convenient, and it’s something I’ve always dreamed of since I started flying,” Schleter said.

He’d like to build a barn hangar on the property as well.

The land has an agriculture zoning designation, which requires a special exception from the Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals for an airstrip. The board is slated to consider it on Thursday, Oct. 28.

Hancock County has several airstrips, including ones in Charlottesville on U.S. 40; on North County Road 1100E near Markleville; Pope Field off Main Street on Greenfield’s east side; and Frost Field, southwest of the Hancock County Public Library in Greenfield off Franklin Street.

Schleter first sought approval from the board of zoning appeals in 2018; the meeting drew about 100 people along with opposition and support for his request. The matter ended up getting continued so he could pursue a necessary vetting on his proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA issued a determination in November 2020 stating it does not object to Schleter’s proposal provided he agrees to conditions, including mitigation actions for the traffic pattern airspace that would overlap with Indianapolis Regional Airport to the northwest.

“Our aeronautical study has determined that the establishment of the private use airport will not adversely affect the safe and efficient use of airspace by aircraft,” the notice states, adding the determination is “with respect to the safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft and … to the safety of persons and property on the ground.”

Now that that box has been checked, Schleter is seeking local zoning approval, which the Indiana Department of Transportation needs before considering its approval.

Tina Vandenbark, president of the Sugar Creek Valley Estates Homeowners Association, told the Daily Reporter in a message that she has distributed flyers about the zoning board meeting to residents.

“I have not heard any complaints opposing it nor supporting comments from the SCVE residents at this time,” Vandenbark said. “If there is a concern, they will attend the scheduled meeting.”

Schleter said he’s drawn three main concerns from opponents to his proposal, one of which is safety. But the FAA determination does not share that concern, he noted.

“Unless these people know more about aviation than the FAA, I would think the safety aspect is a non-event,” he said.

Another concern is noise. Schleter said he was in the farmhouse on the proposed airstrip property recently when a lawnmower and combine were operating on neighboring properties, and that they were louder than his aircraft. He added any noise from his plane would be short-lived — during takeoff and landing.

“It takes less than one minute from takeoff roll to 1,000 feet above ground,” he said. “You’re going to hear something that sounds like a lawnmower for one minute.”

The airstrip leading to decreasing property values is also a concern he’s heard, he continued, adding he’s yet to find any evidence that that would occur.

Schleter is inviting people to his home on Sunday for a question-and-answer session about his proposal.

He has agreed to several commitments if the special exception is granted, including not using the property for flight instruction for hire; planes for acrobatic maneuvers; fuel sales; aircraft rental or chartering; or hangar rental. The signed document also says the strip would not have any runway or landing lights and would only be used for single-engine propeller airplanes.

The county board of zoning appeals meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Hancock County Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield.

“I encourage people to come out and support my effort for landowners’ rights and for safe aviation,” Schleter said.