Marion County Commission OKs private airstrip despite objections from neighbors

Marion County commissioners gave their blessing for a private airstrip to be constructed on a large parcel of land on NW 150th Avenue – despite objections from neighbors living near the 178-acre parcel.

Charles L. McLeod came before the commission to request a special use permit that would allow him to build the runway so he could fly his bright yellow, 85-horsepower 1946 Piper J-3 Cub from his property. McLeod said he also plans to build a residence, hangar and pole barn on the property.

Charles L. McLeod won approval from the Marion County Commission this week to put a private airstrip on his property, which is located on NW 150th Avenue. He plans to fly his 1946 Piper J-3 Cub from the property about five times a month.

McLeod told commissioners he would be utilizing the 2,200-foot runway to fly his plane about five times a month in the late afternoon hours and will be the only pilot using the airstrip.

Neighbor Wendy Thomas, who lives adjacent to McLeod’s property, said she works with horses on her property and she’s worried about the “distress” McLeod’s plane will cause for the animals. She said they are easily startled and claimed McLeod was recently practicing a mock takeoff and her horses “looked at his plane like a big yellow bird that was going to attack.”

Commissioner Kathy Bryant pointed out that McLeod plans to fly his airplane late in the afternoon, while most horse workouts occur in the early morning hours. And Richard McGinley, who said he grew up around an airport, said the small engine in McLeod’s airplane “isn’t even as loud as an outboard motor.”

“When he comes in for a landing, he’ll probably have it idling and it’ll just glide in,” said McGinley, who lives on SW Hwy. 484 and has a runway behind his house. “You’re not even going to hear it. It’s quiet.”

This map shows where Charles L. McLeod plans to build a runway, hangar, pole barn and residence on his 178-acre parcel of land in Marion County.

Cynthia Lybass Porter, who lives on E Blue Cove Drive and owns a large parcel next to McLeod’s property, said she may want to eventually sell a portion of her 1,000 acres as horse farms and she’s afraid the airstrip would drive away potential buyers. She said she also leases out a portion of the land to a bird hunting club and she’s afraid having an airplane taking off and landing will interfere with that source of income for her family.

Bert Meadows, who lives on SW 27th Avenue and is an avid hunter, disputed that claim. He said he regularly hunts in an area near Orlando where airplanes are constantly flying over animals, such as deer and wild turkeys.

“They don’t pay any attention to it at all,” he said.

Marion County native Howard Rohrbacher Jr., a licensed pilot who serves on the advisory board for Ocala International Airport, said he couldn’t understand why McLeod’s neighbors were so upset about his desire to have the private airstrip.

Charles L. McLeod’s property is located on NW 150th Avenue, just under two miles from County Road 328. Earlier this week, he won approval from the Marion County Commission to build on airstrip on the 178-acre parcel.

“It’s not an international airport,” he said. “There’s not going to be jets coming in and out of there hauling horses. I feel sorry for the homeowners if they think this is going to bother their trees and everything else.”

For his part, McLeod said he was willing to plant trees as a buffer and not fly on the days when the hunting club uses his neighbor’s land.

“I don’t fly over anybody’s buildings or homes,” he said. “I just don’t see where I’m going to be a problem to anybody.”

The commissioners agreed and approved the special use permit with the conditions that McLeod is the only pilot who can use the runway and he will plant some trees along his property line with Thomas. They also pointed out that the permit was granted to McLeod and doesn’t go with the land if he sells it.