Airpark project gets OK; foes vow to appeal

From The Democraft – Senatobia, MS

All of the chairs were full, and another large crowd waited outside the board room at the Tate County Planning Commission last week – and most of those in attendance did not leave happy.

Members of the commission were set to hear a proposal by Darrell Ridell, who purchased nearly 80 acres of land off Highway 4 east, to turn the land into a private airpark. He was joined by local developer Mike Massey, whom he described as an old friend.

The plan would require a special use permit from the county, which mandated a public hearing.

Under Ridell’s plan, several homes would be built, each with its own hangar, adjacent to a private grass airstrip. Only those who lived there would have permission to use the strip, which would be limited to small aircraft such as the Supercub.

The landing strip runs north and south on the land, he said, with a proposed flight plan having planes coming in from the east.

The western border of the property runs along the eastern boundaries of Senatobia Lakes.

Ridell said he had flown recreational aircraft for years, and had plans to retire soon and relocate to the area from Helena, Arkansas, in a few years.

He said he also had a few friends, many of them commercial pilots, who would be interested in living in such a development.

Ridell estimated that there would be no more than 10 homes on the site, which would be occupied by “middle-class” residents.

Some landowners voiced concerns about possible crop dusting operations at the property, but Director of Planning and Development Steve Hale assured the crowd that because the property was zoned residential, no commercial activity could go on there.

Most of the property owners were from Senatobia Lakes, and their neighborhood association presented commission members with a petition containing 70 signatures in opposition to the plan.

Pastor Leemar Boyd, whose New Zion Church is just across Highway 4 from the landing strip, said he was concerned about noise during his church services, but Ridell said that many of the pilots would be in church themselves during that time and that all would be respectful of the congregation.

Indeed, noise was the main concern of many there, but Ridell assured the residents that the small planes were no louder than a typical lawnmower. He also said that there was no chance of larger jets at the site, because at 4,000 feet, the runway wasn’t long enough.

John Hodge, who owns land at Senatobia Lakes but does not live there, said he had been exposed to similar communities during his time in the military and that the developments were generally beneficial to the surrounding area, even raising property values because of the quality of homes built there.

After hearing from both sides, commission members voted 4-1 to approve the special use permit.

Henry Ryder, who represents the area, voted against it.

Several of those in attendance expressed their intention to appeal to the Board of Supervisors, which commission attorney Eddy Hannaford said had to take place within 10 days. They had not filed that appeal as of late last week.

All commission members were present for the meeting.