Engineers to propose airport site

January 08, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Engineers studying the need for a general aviation airport in Howard County said last night they plan to recommend a site in about five months.

"The site selection process could also include a no-build option," engineer Gary M. Luczak of Timonium told a gathering of about 75 people at the county office building.

The type of general aviation facility envisioned for Howard would accommodate recreational pilots and businesses using privately owned single-engine aircraft or light, twin-engine aircraft, the group was told.

Many among the pilots, business people and residents attending the meeting thought they were coming to a public hearing and were surprised to learn that they were instead attending a workshop.

The difference is that in a public hearing, people offer testimony before a large group. In a workshop, they mill about in small groups and ask questions of experts.

Last night, there was a little of both.

For the first 45 minutes, Mr. Luczak answered general questions about the Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored study to determine if a Howard facility could relieve congestion at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The purpose of the study is three-fold, Mr. Luczak said.

It is to discover, first, if there is a demand for an airport in Howard County. If so, can a site be found? If a site can be found, would it be economically feasible to build it?

People began choosing sides from the start.

Some pilots complained that Howard was one of only two counties in the state without a general aviation facility.

They said they want an airport built here as soon as possible. BWI is expensive as well as congested, they said.

Potentially affected residents, especially those who live in the rural western part of the county, said they want the whole idea scuttled.

"What's the best thing I can do to stop this completely?" one man asked.

"Write your views on the comments sheet," he was told.

A man identifying himself as a Carroll County resident won applause as he offered an opposing view.

"I wanted to move here, but you have no general aviation airport," he said. "I just want to present the other side."

Some of the pilots and business people complained that they were not included in a survey of the potential uses of the airport.

"If you paid for a list of pilots, you got cheated," one told Mr. Luczak.

"It's a real glitch, it sounds like. I know a lot of people, and everybody I know wasn't surveyed."

Mr. Luczak said 255 pilot survey forms were distributed, and about 64 were returned.

He invited all who felt excluded from the survey to let him know and he would see to it that they are included.

People also wanted to know about hangar space, if homes would be condemned, if farmland would be taken, how much acreage would be needed, how long the runways would be.

In nearly every instance, the answer was the same: "It's too early to tell."

People opposed to a local airport and those in favor of it were given the same advice: "Don't get your hopes up."

Those who want the airport were told how sites had been selected elsewhere but were never supported by elected officials.

Those who oppose the airport were told: "It is possible to put people out of their homes, but we will do our best to avoid it."

A second public workshop will be held on the project once the site has been selected and an environmental assessment is completed, Mr. Luczak said.

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