Owls Head Residents Threaten Moratorium to Block Airport Plans – Knox County VillageSoup

OWLS HEAD — Some townspeople are threatening to seek a moratorium on any new construction projects at Knox County Regional Airport in order to get the county to negotiate a new deal that would limit expansion.

And 12 residents, including two members of the Owls Head Planning Board, have appealed to the town’s appeal board over the planning board’s March 14 approval of 23 new sheds on the property of the airport.

Lauren Dillard of the Owls Head Airport Advisory Committee raised the possibility of a moratorium at the Owls Head Selection Committee meeting on Monday May 23.

“Perhaps the only solution is to vote to place a moratorium on any airport construction or expansion until the county respects city sovereignty and negotiates in good faith,” Dillard said.

For a moratorium to be imposed, a petition would have to circulate in the city and collect enough signatures to be placed on the mandate of the municipal assembly. No petition has yet been filed.

Airport manager Jeremy Shaw said the county followed city orders and received approval for all of its projects.

“The airport plays by the rules,” Shaw said.

The Town Planning Council approved the 23 hangars on March 14. A lawyer representing 12 townspeople, including Planning Board members Ken Wexler and Russell Wolfertz, appealed the issuance of building permits for the sheds. The Appeal Board is expected to hear the appeal in June.

Selection committee member Tom Von Malder questioned whether it was an expansion if the projects were located on existing airport property. The Council also discussed whether it would be legal to target an entity in a moratorium.

The Selectboard negotiated a proposed new interlocal agreement with Knox County, but that initial proposal was defeated 124 to 14 by Owls Head residents at a town meeting in June 2021. Opponents claimed the proposed 2021 would have removed the rights the city had with the previous deal that expired in 2021. That deal was made 20 years earlier.

An ad hoc committee of Owls Head residents presented a revised proposal. The FAA sent a letter to the county on April 18, saying it could not accept the proposed deal because several provisions would remove control of the airport from Knox County, unfairly discriminate against airport users, and violate FAA rules and provide assurances. Knox County rejected the proposal.

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