Topeka A bill before the Kansas Legislature that narrows the definition of what is considered an airport hazard has gained opposition from airports across the state and the U.S. military.
Both the Army and Air Force have written letters stating that House Bill 2652 would threaten military training and deployment capabilities by allowing development to encroach on airfields.
John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Military Council, said the legislation "puts nearly all of our state's military activities at risk."
The bill is supported by a company called Pflumm 143 Inc., which has been trying to develop land at 143rd Street and Pflumm Road in Olathe near the Johnson County Executive Airport.
Michael Menghini, a representative of Pflumm, told legislators that the company has been caught in a power struggle over zoning between Olathe and Johnson County.
Olathe officials have approved Pflumm's application to rezone the land from agricultural to a residential area, he said. But Johnson County commissioners have disapproved of the zoning change.
The battle went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that the city and county had independent zoning authority.
"Each governmental entity wants to place upon the land different conditions that make it impossible for our company to develop," Menghini said.
The bill narrows the definition of airport hazard, which can be used to protect airspace from development, to physical structures only.
But critics of the bill say there are many land uses without structures that pose a threat to air safety and should be kept far away from airfields.
For example, poorly drained locations that attract birds, or land uses that create dust, smoke or steam would no longer be considered an airport hazard, under the bill.
Richard Haig, who is chairman of the Lawrence Aviation Advisory Board and a pilot, said that while he has been on the board issues have come up that would have created wildlife hazards for aircraft. "If the changes in this bill were enacted we would not have had the ability to mitigate these issues," he said.
Haig said he was speaking on behalf of himself because the bill was brought to his attention too late for consideration by the advisory board.