Waunakee Airport

There is concern that an accessory building planned by a homeowner could cause safety issues for planes landing at the Waunakee Airport.

A petition circulated among Waunakee Airport and Pilots Association members and neighbors has prompted Waunakee village officials to reconsider a building permit approval for a garage at a home on the airport.

In September 2018, Steve Monk of Winston Way initially applied for a conditional use permit to build a hangar on his property. The permit was necessary because the structure’s size exceeded the village ordinance. After hearing from Waunakee airport members, the plan commission tabled action on the permit because of safety concerns along the runway.

In an email, Monk told the Tribune he is a pilot and keeps his plane at the airport.

According to Village Engineer Kevin Even, Monk several months later applied for a building permit for an accessory structure that would meet the local zoning regulations in terms of setback and size.

But airport members obtained more than 300 signatures as of Tuesday asking the village to hold the building permit until officials determine that the setback complies with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.

“The majority of the Waunakee Airport community members and owners are concerned that a building that close to the runway is VERY hazardous,” the petition states. The airport owners say they do not believe Monk has completed due diligence to ensure the structure meets FAA recommended safety guideline distances, and that he has failed to submit a form requiring the FAA to complete a site survey to ensure the building will not affect the airport’s operation.

The petition also notes that by granting the building permit, the village may put itself in a position of liability “should a potential incident occur involving the structure.”

After reviewing the petition, Even met with an FAA representative from the Department of Transportation and learned that the village could put an overlay district in place in the airport neighborhood, requiring specific setbacks within it, he said.

“An overlay district would supersede zoning regulations for a particular neighborhood,” Even said, comparing it to similar overlay districts along waterways where the normal zoning restrictions do not apply and greater setbacks from the shoreline are required.

Even said he met with the current and former airport managers about the petition.

“I said we would at least look at it and see if the village board and plan commission would look at it, to have an overlay district that would restrict any activities within x amount of feet for the airport and runway,” Even said.

But unclear is where, exactly, the centerline of the runway is located to determine that setback, Even said. A grass strip surrounds an asphalt strip, Even said, adding he will need to consult further with the FAA.

According to the petition, the proposed setback of Monk’s building from the airport property line is 20 feet; the petition requests Monk comply with guidelines that would put it at 125 feet from the centerline of the asphalt runway.

After consulting with the village attorney, Even learned that the village can use its police powers to halt the building permit. Those powers give the village authority to regulate matters of safety concern in the village, such as restricting parking on Main Street during certain hours.

“Even though it’s not in our ordinance, [the village attorney] believes we can take steps,” Even said.

Even noted that the FAA does not have power over the airport in terms of setbacks.

But village officials intend to protect the airport use, he said.

“We agree that it’s something the village would like to protect,” Even said. “The village agrees that the airport is an asset to the community.”

Monk said the accessory building would be used for general storage.

“The setbacks desired by the airport management don’t work for my situation,” he said, adding he will not build within those setbacks.

So far, Monk has complied with the village’s request to hold off on the project.

“I have been in communication with the village and the state regarding this issue and hope to reach a solution with them,” Monk said.

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