Public Hearing: Airport Expansion Reassessed by Commissioners
A May 17 public hearing about the Carroll County Regional Airport runway expansion will continue a debate that has been ongoing since 2006.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is contemplating whether to continue funding a controversial Carroll County Airport runway expansion project.
A public hearing is scheduled for May 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Carroll Community College.
The airport expansion has been a point of contention for local government officials and citizens since 2006.
After much discussion about increasing the length of the runway from 5,100 feet to 6,400 feet and the creation of several anti-expansion community groups, the County Commissioners approved the runway expansion project in 2007.
According to an article in the Baltimore Examiner, commissioners Julia Gouge and Dean Minnich voted for the expansion, citing a need for Carroll to develop its commercial and industrial tax base by luring more corporate jets to Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster. Commissioner Michael Zimmer voted against lengthening the runway, saying studies had not convinced him that the project would stoke the local economy.
Citizens against the runway expansion are concerned about noise, pollution and property values decreasing, according to the article.
The article reported that the next step in the process was a two-year environmental study, which was completed in 2009. According to the article, the study was expected to cost about $750,000, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paying 95 percent, and the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) and the county splitting the rest.
A summary of the environmental study is posted on the Delta Airport Consultants website. According to the summary, four alternatives were explored with the preferred alternative including the construction of a replacement 6,400-foot runway approximately 250 feet west of the existing runway.
According to the summary, field surveys and tests were conducted related to endangered and threatened species, wetlands, historic resources, air quality analysis, forest conservation, and the impact on wetlands and streams.
Public open houses were held to allow the public to interact directly with airport management and consultant representatives, as well as involved federal and state agencies.
The FAA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in April 2009, according to the summary.
Fast forward to this year, at a March Board of Commissioners meeting, a discussion ensued about funding for the airport expansion. According to a Carroll County Times article, FAA grants, when they are received, will go toward the nearly $1.2 million the county has spent on planning for the expansion. The reimbursements includes money the county has advanced for land surveys, the relocation of Meadow Branch Road and reimbursement to the county for partially funding an environmental study, said Cindy Parr, the county's director of Administrative Services.
In the article, Parr said that the county has spent approximately $30,000 so far on the airport expansion project. She also said that if the commissioners decided to halt the project at this point, the county would not be required to pay back the funds already spent by the FAA and Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) .
"Our understanding, based on what MAA has said and what FAA has said, is that anything in the planning stages, they would not require us to pay back the planning costs," Parr said in the article. "If we start buying land and spending big, big dollars, that's probably when FAA and MAA would look for reimbursement [from the county, should the commissioners terminate the project]."
Four of the five current commissioners are on record as being against the airport runway expansion, with David Roush, R-District 3 being for it.
Representatives from the FAA, the MAA and Delta Airport Consultants will be at the public hearing on May 17.
Comments from citizens will be heard by the Board of County Commissioners.
Questions regarding the meeting or the airport runway expansion project may be directed to Jeffrey Topper, deputy director of of the county's Department of Public Works. He can be reached at 410-386-2035 or via e-mail at email@example.com.