Counties move to acquire airfield at Fort Meade

September 23, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel and Howard counties will start work on a plan to acquire Tipton Army Airfield at Fort Meade and turn it into a privately run airport.

A report by LPA Inc. of Philadelphia released yesterday to Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall and Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker concluded the airport could be successfully operated as a general aviation airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) favors creating another civilian airport in the region to reduce the number of privately-owned planes using Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The FAA paid for 90 percent of the $135,000 feasibility study, with 5 percent coming from the Maryland Aviation Administration and 5 percent paid for by Anne Arundel County.

Anne Arundel officials want to see a private agency established to own and operate the airport, said Sam Minnette, project coordinator for the county's land use and environment office.

"The bottom line for both county executives is they want to see an airport that will operate on its own, without a scintilla of public money," Mr. Minnette said.

The state legislature would have to pass a law authorizing a private airport management group.

The airport's operation would be subject to conditions set by the Fort Meade Coordinating Council, which include allowing no more than 300 aircraft to be based there and limiting the runway length to 4,000 feet.

The Fort Meade airfield has been designated as surplus as part of the military's nationwide base closure and realignment process and the Army must dispose of it by next year.

The next step will be an economic study, to be completed within two to three months, that will weigh the airport operating costs against revenue potential, Mr. Minnette said.

By the end of November, Anne Arundel officials plan to sign a lease for the land while the Army cleans up any ground contaminated with hazardous or toxic waste. The airport authority will take ownership of the land when the clean-up is complete, which the Army says should happen by September 1996.

When the idea of turning the 440-acre airfield into a municipal airport was first proposed, the nearby National Security Agency (NSA) objected because of encroachment and noise concerns.

The Department of Defense later rejected NSA's claims.

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