TVC (copy)

A security checkpoint at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City.

SUTTONS BAY — Leelanau County commissioners are still questioning whether the Cherry Capital Airport should change from a commission to an authority.

A change in the governance model of the airport has been the topic du jour of several board meetings and public hearings in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, which share ownership of the airport.

Commissioners will get their questions answered at a joint study session of the Boards of Commissioners from both counties set for 3 p.m. March 17.

The airport is now governed by the Northwestern Regional Airport Commission, which is made up of two members from Leelanau and five from Grand Traverse.

Steven Baldwin, a management consultant hired by the airport to look at making the switch, has said an authority would allow for the buying and selling of property, have more control over zoning and have the ability to make decisions without having to go to both county commissions for approval.

Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik said zoning and eminent domain are the biggest issues he hears about regarding the change.

Airport executive Director Kevin Klein told commissioners at their executive session Tuesday that eminent domain cannot be used exclusively for economic development. He said he has no records of it ever being used by the airport to acquire property.

Commissioner Tony Ansorge said he would like to see the cost difference between a commission and an authority, saying he’s not yet convinced why the change is needed.

“I’m not ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet,” Ansorge said.

Commissioner Debra Rushton wants to see sample articles of incorporation and options of what airport governance structure and cost would look like. A motion requesting that Janik have that information at the county board’s regular meeting Feb. 18 was unanimously approved.

Janik said he and Nate Alger, Grand Traverse County administrator, have been working together to discuss what would be needed in the airport’s articles. They have also taken a neutral position on the topic.

Janik said he’s heard a rumor that the articles are already written. He said the rumor is not true, that he does not have a document ready to go. A draft will be prepared for the March 17 meeting, he said.

A committee has been working on the governance issue for nearly a year.

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