Community raises opposition to small airport's expansion

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio (AP) - A proposal to expand Geauga County
Airport in northeast Ohio has drawn opposition from an Amish enclave.
"Look at the lives they want to disrupt, and for what?" said Levi Miller, an Amish farmer. "There's not much activity at that airport, and I find it hard to believe there ever will be.
"They can paint any picture they want about the possibilities, but I can see with my own eyes, and I don't see the need."
Miller said he grows vegetables and fruit on a field that soon could be paved over.
Miller's field, business and home are in the path of a proposed 1,080-foot extension of the airport runway, which is too short for most aircraft to use.
The Geauga Airport Authority is requesting federal grants so the $2 million project can be completed within the next decade.
A longer runway could invigorate the airport, turning it into an economic engine for eastern Geauga County, said pilot and airport authority member Pierre Hodgins.
He said an extension would make the airport safer and open it to larger planes.
The runway can safely accommodate a six-passenger, twin-engine plane, said pilot Chris Hopkins, who also is an airport authority member.
Middlefield Councilman Chuck White, a former pilot, said the community is comfortable with the airport as it exists. He said most residents in the village of 2,200 people don't want the airport to turn into a nuisance, particularly involving noise.
The most vocal opposition, led by Miller, comes from residents of Middlefield Township who live along State Route 528 near the airport. They say they have the most to lose if the runway is extended from roughly 3,400 feet to 4,500 feet.
Miller, 66, and his son-in-law, Owen Miller, 43, would be forced to sell and leave their side-by-side homes. Ten of their neighbors on the same side of the two-lane highway would be given the option of selling and relocating, airport officials said.
The airport is used mostly for recreational aviation, although several companies, including KraftMaid Cabinetry, the county's largest employer, occasionally fly people in and out.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)