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St. Jacob Airport Plans Move Forward

by Randy Pierce

ST. JACOB — Members of the Madison County Zoning Board of Appeals have unanimously offered their support to the issuance of a special use permit which is expected to be a factor in the improvement and renovation of the St. Louis Metro-East Airport, known as Shafer Field, near St. Jacob between Illinois Route 4 and Triad Road, north of U.S. Highway 40.

At the zoning board’s most recent meeting, a petition from Steven Coad of Glen Carbon for the permit was approved following a public hearing during which there were no objections brought forward. The matter was then sent on to the Madison County Board Building and Zoning Committee which also supported it earlier this month. 

The final approval of the special use permit is expected to occur at the regular monthly meeting of the Madison County Board scheduled for next Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m.

 As explained by Coad at the ZBA hearing, the permit is required because the property where the airport is located at 9810 Beacon Street, St. Jacob, is changing ownership and such approval is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation.

Coad spoke to the full county board last August in explaining his plans to take over the operations at Shafer Field then he and some partners, representing a firm called Hay Creek Real Estate, LLC, closed on the purchase of it in September.

Overseeing what occurs at this site will include running a general aviation airport that is sustainable while being an asset to Madison County, according to Coad, who stressed that there will be no charter or other commercial-type flights leaving from or landing at this location.

Seeing it as a community partner for both Troy and St. Jacob, Coad said there are not any plans to expand the facility into “a big airport” while simply maintaining the rural character that will be attractive for those who wish to use it.

In foreseeing a “seamless transition” of continuing to provide for current customers, including those who use the hangars at this location and runway access as members of the nearby homeowners’ association, Shafer Field will still offer a low level of flight training and maintenance as part of its aircraft services.

Coad further explained that his approach will be primarily to improve the facilities at the airport and bring about a return to the types of service levels which existed long after its opening in 1972 under the leadership of the late Ed Shafer. That would include the storage of aircraft on the property.

Long-range plans cited by Coad consist of a modest expansion of the airport’s services and increasing “the county’s outreach” capability with it possibly including accoutrements such as a bed and breakfast unit and collaborating with Southwestern Illinois College or even Triad High School regarding instruction programs at some future juncture.

He additionally mentioned challenges such as having learned this property is zoned “A” – agricultural and not specifically for an airport but instead having had a “special exemption” which has apparently existed for roughly 50 years.

The special use permit additionally serves to clarify the authorization that the property can be used for the airport.

Coad is a retired aeronautical engineer who was formerly employed by the Boeing Company.

Edward “Ed” Shafer, who developed this airfield that was named after him in 1975, had moved to St. Jacob from Ohio in 1969 then passed away in September of 2021.

This site gained considerable attention in the summer of last year when the co-pilot of a small plane that had crashed nearby had lost his life.

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