Lake Elmo airport shovels sand against neighbors’ tide

What’s happening in Lake Elmo is happening all over America. People move near a small airport and, inevitably, they begin to object to alleged property value declines caused by the airport.

Yesterday, a Metropolitan Airports Commission committee approved a plan to lengthen a runway at the airport, relocating a road that some residents say they need to get to their houses.

The Lake Elmo runways are the second-shortest of any of MAC’s six reliever airports, but some residents say it’ll lead to more plane traffic in the community that historically has been dead set against growth, the Star Tribune reports today.

Dave Schultz, a member of the West Lakeland Township’s board of supervisors, said an expanded airport would lead to declining property values. Planes would be taking off and landing over people’s houses instead of farm fields as is the case now, he said.

“We believe this doesn’t go far enough in protecting our residents,” he said.

Another resident, Vince Anderson, showed committee members photographs of other metro-area airports, including St. Paul Downtown Airport. Commercial development surrounded each of them, but Lake Elmo Airport “is a different airport in a different neighborhood” in the midst of farms and rural housing, he said.

“Personally, I would ask the committee to call this a dumb idea and reject the plan,” Anderson said.

Farmers in what is now suburbia are familiar with this. People move to the wide-open spaces and then complain that the smell of manure is ruining property values.

The march of suburbia can’t be stopped for long. Farm fields inevitably give way to cul-de-sacs and cute street names. And, in time, small airports fall by the wayside too, a victim of the decline of general aviation and the complaints of neighbors. It doesn’t matter how many pancake breakfasts local pilots host, nor free airplane rides they give to kids.

Be careful what you wish for, however. Quite often the airport property becomes an industrial park. That should do wonders for the property values.

Related: As Eden Prairie grows, an airport tries to get along with neighbors (NewsCut)