Charlotte won't use eminent domain in airport issue: Battle Creek MI Enquirer, 2/28/07

By Rachel Greco

[Charlotte MI] City officials won't use eminent domain if they relocate the Fitch H. Beach Airport, according to a nonbinding resolution council members passed Monday night.

"I hope this resolution gives you assurance that we respect you," Mayor Deb Shaughnessy told a packed room of residents.

Several hours before the vote, about 100 people protested outside the Charlotte City Hall on Lawrence Avenue.

Waving signs and chanting, "Don't take our land," and "No airport in the country," they gathered to oppose to the city expanding or relocating the airport.

Last month, city officials said they were considering proposals to expand the airport's 3,500-foot runway to 5,000 feet or relocate the airport to accommodate corporate jets. Officials are currently awaiting a feasibility study in April before their decision.

Consultants have identified possible relocation sites for the airport in Eaton, Walton and Carmel townships.

The airport was not on the council's meeting agenda.

Council Member Dee Smith proposed and voted for the resolution "not because of pressure."

"I'm putting it forward because it's the right thing to do," she said.

The resolution passed 4 to 3. The measure only applied to using eminent domain if the airport is relocated, not if it is expanded at its current site.

Most protesters were from Eaton Township. Spiritual Episcopal Church in Eaton Rapids coordinated the event.

The Rev. Elle Desgrange said her church is on one of the proposed relocation sites.

"That's our business," she said. "That's our livelihood."

Protestor Janette Burzan lives on a centennial farm in Eaton Township.

"We will be affected because the farmers that rent our property stand to lose their property," Burzan said. "This affects our neighbors, our friends."

Eaton Township Trustee Ron Hunt said an airport is "not like a building, that's for sure. It changes the entire environment around it."

Battle Creek MI Enquirer: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com