May 16, 2018

A Carroll farmer has asked a judge to delay a $200-per-day penalty he faces for not complying with an order to remove or shorten his grain-distribution tower that violates protected airspace near the Arthur N. Neu Municipal Airport.

Eight months ago a judge ordered Loren Danner, 72, who farms just south of the airport east of Carroll, to reduce the height of the tower about 60 feet and gave him a deadline of May 1 or face the penalty.

Danner appealed that decision to the Iowa Supreme Court and has asked to post a so-called “supersedeas bond” that would allow him to avoid the penalties until his appeal is finished.

It’s unclear when that appeal will conclude.

The bond issue was expected to be decided in a court hearing this afternoon, said Greg Siemann, an airport commissioner.

“This is a safety issue,” he said at a commission meeting on Monday. “If somebody should hit that tower with an aircraft there will be a fatal crash.”

Danner built the tower in 2013 to feed grain into his storage bins after he consulted with the county’s zoning administrator. Agricultural buildings are generally exempt from county zoning laws.

Danner spent about $300,000 to build the tower, which is about 60 feet too tall and might be an obstacle for some pilots as they approach for a landing at the airport.

“There will be a student pilot — some kid learning to fly who won’t have everything figured out — and they’ll hit that tower,” Siemann said, noting that the tower lies beneath a common flight pattern for landing.

He also worries about pilots who spray crops and fly low.

“Someone is really, really tired. They get hazy. They’re flying low and boom,” Siemann said.

The commission wants Danner’s supersedeas bond to be sufficient to cover damages from a potential lawsuit if a pilot strikes the tower.

Danner has said it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove or shorten the tower, and he has petitioned the Carroll County Board of Supervisors to help pay for it because he argues that their zoning administrator made a mistake by not telling him about potential airspace regulations. He submitted a petition to the board in April that was signed by 542 people.

The five supervisors have declined to talk publicly about whether they will help pay.