April 11, 2018

Carroll County should pay part of the cost to remove a farmer’s grain-distribution tower that protrudes into protected airspace because a county employee signed off on the project, according to a petition signed by more than 500 people.

Loren Danner, 72, who farms just south of the Arthur N. Neu Municipal Airport, gave the petition to the county’s Board of Supervisors on Monday.

The supervisors declined to talk publicly about the petition — which was signed by 542 people — and plan to discuss it privately at their next meeting.

“I often get stopped on the street (by people) saying, ‘You did everything right, Loren. I think the county should take care of you,’” Danner told the supervisors. “We would appreciate any help that we can get.”

Danner built the tower in 2013 to feed grain into his storage bins at the cost of about $300,000 after he consulted with the county’s zoning administrator, who approved the project citing an agricultural exemption.

The administrator, Carl Wilburn, “did not realize that Loren would be subject to airport zoning,” Danner’s attorney, Steve Hamilton, said Monday. “Loren did not choose to violate this rule. He simply did as most people would to go to Mr. Wilburn to ask for a building permit. You would assume he would tell him he needed airport commission approval as well.”

The tower is about 60 feet too tall and has the potential to be an obstacle for planes on approach for a landing at the airport.

Greg Siemann, an airport commissioner, lawyer and pilot, has said the tower “is eventually going to kill someone” if it isn’t shortened or removed. A judge ordered Danner to take down the tower by May or be fined $200 per day thereafter. Danner has appealed that decision.

Danner has said it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove or modify the tower. The petition he circulated at banks and farmers’ cooperatives estimates the cost at $490,000.

It’s unclear how much money Danner seeks from the county.

Siemann also asked county supervisors to help pay for the attorney fees the airport commission has incurred in its legal wrangling with Danner, which most recently totaled about $43,000.