By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
RIVERSIDE — Danville Airport Authority is offering to cover charges of trimming and removing trees on land adjacent to the airport along Sunbury Road.
The trees, some of which are on adjacent private property, need to be removed as part of a borough zoning code and to make sure the airport is in compliance with federal aviation regulations.
“We’re willing to pay these property owners to correct the zoning violation,” authority member Craig Lawler said.
The airport had previously been ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration to trim or remove trees around the airport’s runway that were in danger of interfering with aircraft landing at the airport.
“The trees, at night especially, are dangerous,” particularly to pilots not familiar with the runway, Lawler said. He and authority member Jack Shalongo met with members of Riverside borough council at the council’s meeting Monday.
“Riverside voted that zoning in … more than 10 years ago,” he said.
When the runway was first built, hazard zoning laws were placed in, Lawler said. These laws restrict the height of any object near the runway, whether its trees or manmade structures such as buildings or cell phone towers. When the laws were originally approved the trees were short enough that they did not interfere with the runway, he said.
“At present there are quite a few trees that are obstructions,” said council president Peter Fleming. The borough solicitor is currently investigating what Riverside’s responsibilities are if property owners have trees above the required height on their property.
“The borough doesn’t want to get into a policing type action, however we do have to abide by the terms of the zoning ordinances,” Fleming said.
There are currently three properties adjacent to the airport with trees near its border.
Two of the property owners have already given the authority an easement to maintain tree height, with the airport authority covering the cost. That option is also open to the third property owner, Lawler said.
All of the trees in question are on vacant land, and not located in areas such as residential yards.
Ensuring proper tree height is especially important given that any airplane accident could put the authority, Riverside and property owners at risk of being sued. “A litigation attorney would have a heyday with it,” Lawler said. “It’s unfortunate we have to be concerned about that sort of thing in today’s world. … But I think it’s in the best interest of everybody to make sure we’re legal.”