Coweta County Commission
No flying club near Moreland
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The Coweta County Commissioners denied an event permit for a private flying club on 151 acres on Dingler Road and Cline Road near Moreland, but approved a permit for a 6,000-square-foot kennel on the same property.
There were several rezoning requests on the agenda at Tuesday's commission meeting, and the meeting lasted more than four hours.
Kevin Weldenberg is a commercial pilot but loves flying small aircraft. He bought the property because of its grass airstrip. He hopes to one day build his home there, but right now, he can't afford it. Weldenberg wants to be able to build hangers for other airplane enthusiasts.
"Hangers go with an airstrip like a barn goes with horses," Weldenberg said. He applied for a special use permit that would allow 10 t-hangers, a clubhouse and a pavilion.
A grass airstrip is special, Weldenberg said. "It's just awesome. I want people to really understand that we have something special here."
Fellow Cowetan and pilot Tim Knight agreed. "Grass is just awesome," he said.
Neighbors, however, were opposed, citing concerns about noise, flyover traffic and the commercialization of the area.
Charles Carmical said he already gets enough noise from Newnan-Coweta Airport at Whitlock Field. "I don't want more."
"Since Mr. Weldenberg doesn't live here, the noise will not bother him or the other members. They can go home to peace and quiet."
"It sounds like a commercial venture," Carmical added.
Neighbor Jerry Gray said he has enjoyed his rural neighborhood for many years. "We're not happy to have a commercial dog kennel and a flight club in our area."
"No one wants to live near a 6,000-square-foot kennel. This is not a home. It is a commercial enterprise with paid staff," Gray said.
Other than the airstrip itself, the property is heavily wooded, and all the proposed structures would be located in the center of the tract.
Robert Dawson is a retired commercial pilot and is opposed because of noise and safety. He's worried about the safety of "ultralight" aircraft.
Weldenberg disagreed. "Right now, the light sport aircraft, the way they build them now, are every bit as safe" as any other small airplane, he said.
He said the noise of the planes is "not even what we are talking about here." The airstrip exists and Weldenberg can invite as many people to use it as he likes. "I have no noise limit. The FAA doesn't tell me how many planes I can bring in or out. That is not what we are arguing."
Instead, it's whether he can have the hangers and the club. It would be "something I think is going to be such a neat thing for Coweta with the kids."
"If I wanted, I could clear cut this property. I could subdivide it and build 80 homes … would we rather I do that?"
"Yes," responded members of the audience. "Go for it."
Commissioner Tim Lassetter said he thinks Weldenberg is trying to be a good neighbor. He said he came to the meeting open-minded but leaning toward support. But after hearing the neighbors, he changed his mind and made a motion for denial.
The vote was unanimous.
Later in the meeting, Lassetter made the motion to approve the kennel, which can house up to 39 animals. Lassetter said the closest home would be about half a mile away.
Commissioner Rodney Brooks said he was concerned about granting a permit for a kennel when the owners don't live on the property.
Chairman Bob Blackburn said he thinks approving the kennel will hurt the rural character.
"This is a large piece of property… it's wooded in every direction… which is why I see this not having a negative impact on the community," Lassetter said.
The vote to approve the kennel was 3-2, with Brooks and Blackburn opposed.