The Bayfield County Board Room was packed with residents Tuesday as the Planning and Zoning Committee disregarded all public sentiment, and good judgment, to vote in approval of a permit for CFS LLC to construct and operate an airport and 20 hangars on their Compton Road property.
Twenty-seven (27) residents, including two members of the Bayfield County Board of Supervisors, and three town Plan Commission members, voiced their opposition to the business class jet capable airport on the grounds that it is incompatible with the Town and County’s Comprehensive Plans.
Numerous speakers cited the level of noise from aircraft, and aircraft overflights, as negatively impacting their lives, their businesses, and the tourist industry in the northern part of the county. Residents and business owners stated concerns that low flying, sightseeing overflights of the Apostle Islands and environs, will negatively impact the experience of kayakers, sailors, and fishermen, and reduce tourist numbers. There are numerous kayaking outfitters, hunting guides, and fishing guides on the peninsula who will be impacted by reduced tourism.
Several farm and orchard owners, who live within a few miles of the airport site, spoke to the negative effect the noise and traffic will have on their clientele. Eric Carlson, owner of Blue Vista Farm, spoke for all fruit growers in the area when he stated, “I’m not just selling fruit, but an experience.”
Local residents expect property values in the area to plummet and the real estate business in Bayfield and Russell to suffer. Realtors must disclose the planned airport and noise hazard to all potential buyers.
Steve Katkov, an attorney for CFS LLC, stated that the 4000’ runway planned for the airport would be inadequate, if not dangerous, for landing jet aircraft, although CFS had previously stated that this length was necessary in order to land business class jet aircraft. In a lame attempt to counter the concerns of the residents and confuse the committee, Katkov stated that commercial jets would not use the runway, only single-engine and twin-engine planes would land. Most business class jet aircraft are light single, or twin, engine planes.
Annalisa Cariveau, CFS spokesperson, and Katkov, showed a map of the Apostle Islands and indicated that planes would not fly over the National Lakeshore and Wilderness area, the Town of Bayfield, or neighboring farms. All planes allegedly would approach from the west, make a 90° turn from the county forest land lying to the west of the airport and south of highway 13, to land into prevailing southwest winds, on the north-south oriented runway. This assertion is improbable, if not impossible, considering that business class jets require miles of clear airspace to properly orient the aircraft for safe landing. Low altitude overflights of Sand, York, and Raspberry Islands by aircraft on final approach will be routine.
Two county residents offered their support of the project - Dave Good, Town of Russell clerk, sent a letter of support, and Frank Graves spoke at the meeting.
CFS LLC, a Minneapolis based developer, must obtain a Water Quality Certification permit from the WDNR, and county building permits for the runway and hangars before construction can take place. Rocky Tribovich, former Town of Russell Board chair, and long time supporter of the CFS project, will be instrumental in the runway construction. SEH, the company that guided the Town of Russell’s Comprehensive Planning and mapping process, is involved with the airport design.
Committee members voting to approve the permit include Brett Rondeau, Shawn Miller, Kenneth “Bucky” Jardine, and Patti Rantala. Harold Maki was absent.