Officials try to work around problems so plant can be opened in air center

May 12, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County government is trying two approaches to solve a problem that may jeopardize or delay an experimental aircraft maker's plan to open a plant in the air business center north of Westminster.

The problem: The building designed for Freewing Aircraft Corp. lies partly in an area that the Federal Aviation Administration will eventually require to be kept free of obstacles. The FAA requirement will become effective when the county completes plans to upgrade the airport to allow precision instrument landings.

"We're doing everything we can to make this [Freewing locating in Carroll County] a reality," said William E. Jenne, county economic development administrator.

Mr. Jenne said FAA officials appear willing to allow the building to be built as designed, with a provision that it would have to be made visible to pilots in bad weather after the precision instrument landing system is in place. But he's waiting to see that approval in writing.

"If there's a potential to jeopardize the instrument landing system, we may decide not to build anything on that lot. But we're not at that point yet," Mr. Jenne said.

Joan Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, was unable to confirm yesterday that the agency will approve the construction with some mitigating measure, such as exterior lights to warn pilots of the building's presence in the runway protection zone.

County officials are also looking at "four or five" other possible sites for the building, the economic development administrator said.

Freewing officials, frustrated by a series of delays, are also considering other options. Corporation President Hugh Schmittle said other counties that had been interested before Freewing selected Carroll are again making overtures.

"We're hopeful we can be offered something that can be delivered [in Carroll]. That hasn't been the case to date," Mr. Schmittle said.

County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said the negotiations for another building "might be the better cure."

But Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said one of the sites under consideration, the air business center building occupied by Quality Glass and Aluminum Inc., would be too expensive. Quality Glass and Aluminum is scaling back, and owner Steve Hull said he plans to lease part of the building.

Mr. Jenne said county staff members hope to wrap up site options and a lease agreement with Freewing within two weeks. The decision on the site rests with corporate officials, he said.

Engineers for Delta Associates Inc., the county's airport consultant, found the runway encroachment problem when they reviewed Freewing's site plan.

"We took a look at it and felt that the property line looked a little odd and also the building seemed to encroach within that runway protection zone," said project engineer Michael D. Kane.

Mr. Kane acknowledged "some type of discrepancy" in the distance between the edge of the runway and the lot's property line as shown on a Delta Associates drawing.

J. Michael Evans, county general services director, said the drawing shows 80 feet between the runway edge and the property line. The actual distance is 30 feet, which brings the planned Freewing building within the protection zone, he said.

Mr. Evans said the discrepancy is insignificant in the drawing's purpose, which was to show a 625-foot shift in the runway to accommodate a planned interchange of Routes 140 and 97 on the proposed Westminster bypass.

The county government asked Delta to show the runway protection zone for an earlier client interested in the county-owned lot, Mr. Evans said. "That is what they did, but they used the data they had, which is where the error is," he said.

Commissioners Gouge, Lippy and Donald I. Dell said they're not interested in berating anyone for the problem.

"I just think we need to be aware of what happened and we need to make sure things are documented around here so it doesn't happen again in the future," Mrs. Gouge said.

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