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May 22, 1971 - Image 2

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1971-05-22

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Poge Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, Mav 22, 1971

WILLOW RUN AIRPORT
Expansion proposal sparks debate

By CHRIS PARKS
Willow Run Airport, home of
the University's controversial
classified research program, is
becoming the focus of still ano-
ther battle involving the Uni-
versity, General Motors, t h e
Wayne County Road Commis-
sion, and the residents of near-
by Van Buren -Township.
The airport, purchased from
the federal government after
World War II has housed, be-
sides the research laboratories,
facilities for business flights and
limited air freight operations.
With the University p 1 a n-
ning to move the research lab-
oratories from the airport to
North Campus many groups
have developed an interest in
the fate of the facility.
While the Wayne County Road
Commission desires to purchase
the airport to expand into a
major freight terminal, 1 a c a 1
residents oppose such a move,
fearing possible ecological de-
struction and disruption of
their community.
Several large corporations, in-
cluding General Motors, also
desire to see the airport ex-
panded to facilitate their move
towards increased use of a i r
freight transportation.
Primary among the contend-
ing factions is the Wayne
County Road Commission, to
relieve crowded conditions at
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne
County Airport, which it oper-
ates.
In a 37-page preliminary
study, the commission outlined
the need for such an airport, in-
cluding plans for acquisition,
expansion, and conversion of
the present facility.
The report is based on ,fig-
ures which project the volume
of air cargo to "increase in
1985 to 3.2 times what it was
in 1965."
Under the ominous heading
"Time is running out for Wil-
low Run Airport," the report
states that the University is in-
capable of maintaining the fa-
cility to its "highest and best
use"
The report projects a final
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cost for the entire proposal of
$100,000,000 including the pur-
chase of 1,840 acres of ad-
jacent land.
While warning of possible
difficulties between nearby Van
Buren Township residents and
the airport, the report p r e -
diets eventual harmony be-
tween the two.
It optimistically concludes
that "further development of
Willow Run Airport and maxi-
mizing the use thereof will have
beneficial effects on Van Bur-
en Township, much of western
Wayne County and parts of
Washtenaw County."
Many area residents, h o w -
ever, are far from convinced.
A citizens group, organized to
oppose the project has initiat-
ed a petition in an effort to
stop the proposed expansion.
The group has also appealed
to the University not to sell the
airport for purposes of expan-
sion.
Area residents express strong
concern over a number of is-
sues covering social, ecological
and economic problems raised
by the proposed development.
One primary objection of op-
ponents to the plan is the pro-
perty condemnation which will
be necessary for the airport's ex-
pansion.
A major victim of such ex-
pansion would be a recently
built junior high school which
cost the township over $3 mil-
lion.
An elementary school, t h e
township hall and the township
fire station are also threatened
by the proposed expansion.
Further complicating the
matter is the fact that the
area's rapidly expanding north
side is serviced by the threaten-
ed schools and would be with-
out nearby educational facili-
ties if the proposed expansion
is carried out,
Residents fear the cost of bus-
sing students across town would
be burdensome.
It will also be necessary for
200 area homes to be condemn-
ed, many of which are older
structures,
Further, owners fear they will
not receive enough money for
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a-

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GM hanger at Willow Run

these houses to purchase com-
parable newer dwellings.
Residents also are fearful of
the ecological implications of
airport construction.
They feel air and noise pollu-
tion from the facility will be
excessive and will destroy the
area's natural surroundings,
They are supported in their
fears by Bill Kopper of Ann
Arbor's Ecology Center. Kop-
per claims township and Ypsi-
lanti residents will suffer from
both air and noise pollution
generated by air craft taking
off and landing at the airport.
Further residents express
concern over the effects of the
runway extension on the area's
delicate ecological balance.
Kopper explains he has "grave
questions" concerning the ef-
fects such expansion would
have on the water table and
runoff patterns in the area.
General Motors, another in-
terested party, has recently pur-
chased a large tract of land on
the airport's north side and has
begun construction of a ware-
house covering a million square
feet on the site.
Martin Caserio, general mana-
The Michigan Daily, edited and man-
aged by students at the University of
Michigan, News phone: 764-0552. Seend
Class poutage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
igan. 420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-
day throughSunday morning Univer-
sity year. aubscriptioa rates: $10 by
carrier, $10 by mall.
Summer Session published Tuesday
through Saturday morning. Subscrip-
tion rates: $5 by carrier, $5 by mail.
DOORS C
OPEN y,
12:45
DIAL 8
The Roir
Afmmi

ger of General Motors' GMC
truck division explains the ware-
house construction is the result
of a plan to construct a facility
large enough to house all parts
used in his division in one loca-
tion and on one floor.
GM officials admit, however,
that location played a major role
in the decision to build the fa-
cility at Willow Run and that the
proposed expansion of the air-
port would greatly enhance its
value to the company.
The University which cur-
rently owns the airport is
caught between the contending
factions.
At present the airport is be-
ing used primarily for small
business planes and air freight
operations.
Several large corporations in-
cluding General Motors and
Chrysler now rent hanger space
from .the University.
Universal, Overseas National,
and Air Life National freight
airlines operate daily ahort-run,
flights from the facility.
However, Director of P 1 a n t
Extension John Weidenbach, a
University official involved with
the airport's operation, says its
runways are at present too short
to accommodate planes on long
distance flights.
He says the University is obli-
gated under the terms of its
deed from the federal govern-
ment, to maintain the airport
as a public facility. "If there
is a need to expand, and there
is, then the question is who
1,3,5,
7, 9 P.M.
igStones
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has the financial ability to ex-
pand it," he adds.
James Brinkerhoff, Univer-
sity director of business opera-
tions, says the University is fi-
nancially unable to develop the
facility to "satisfy what the fed-
eral government would like to
see,"
Since the University cannot
afford to expand, despite an
acknowledged need for expan-
sion, the option at this time
is to sell the facility to some
unit such as the road commis-
sion, which could afford to ex-
pand, University officials con-
clude,
They caution, however, that
any such sale is not immediate-
ly contemplated.
Weidenbach explains t h e
University has had no specific
proposal from the road com-
mission as yet and that the
commission is still exploring the
financial implications of such a
purchase.
"There is still a question as
to whether they will find they
can afford to buy it, or if
they will feel they have to ask us
to give it to them," he says.
The University has to wait
until they have a specific of-
fer from the Wayne County
Road Commission before mak-
ing a final decision, Weiden-
bach explains.
Brinkerhoff adds that t h e
University is conducting on-
going discussions with appro-
priate committees of the state
legislature, the Federal Avia-
tion Administration, the Wayne
County Road Commission, and
local residents and that these
talks would also be taken into
consideration before making a
final decision,
Both Brinkerhoff and Weid-
enbach agree it will be a long
time, perhaps from 18 months
to a year, before a final de-
cision is made on what to do
with Willow Run.
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