Johnson County Airport supporters fight new bill to change development laws around airports

OLATHE, Kan. - A debate over the development of land around the Johnson County Airport has now taken the form of a bill in the Kansas House.

Critics of the bill believe the developer is involved to change the state law, even after the Kansas State Supreme Court said no.

Dale O'Connor is just one of the people who live around the Johnson County Airport and has lived there since 1977. He understands why the land is so valuable, but believes filling the acres with houses is not the answer.

Johnson County developer Michael Menghini with Pflumm 143rd Inc., has been trying to develop the land for years.

O'Connor believes Menghini had his chance.

"Even when the city has authorized him to put so many houses per acre, he continually tries to up the number," O'Connor said.

Now the number the group of homeowners, pilots and airport officials is focused on is Kansas House Bill 2652.

"It's basically a house bill that guts state law that allows us to protect the land around the airport," Colin McKee said, Executive Director of the Johnson County Airport Commission.

"This bill is coming in the backdoor and doesn't surprise me, but I think it's been a sneaky way and I would really like to know who introduced the bill and how it got this far," O'Connor said.

We also tried to find that out because there is no sponsor connected to it. 41 Action News contacted the State House and discovered Representative Lance Kinzer introduced the bill, but didn't write it. The Revisor's Office wrote the bill, but it’s still unclear who requested Kinzer to create it.

But we do know the bill was written in response to the Kansas Supreme Court decision against the development of the land by Pflumm 143rd. Inc. We reached out to Menghini, but our phone call wasn't returned.

The bill is currently stuck in the judiciary committee.

In the meantime, members of the group are planning to be proactive. They will invite members of the legislature to the airport on April 26, deemed “Airport Day,” to show them why it's important to kill the bill.

Both the Army and the United States Air Force are against the bill. The military divisions said adding structures near airports could be dangerous and believe land near airports can be used without adding structures that could threaten air safety.

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