Tipton Airport becomes Arundel project Howard out

February 13, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel and Howard counties have backed away from joining in a bicounty authority to run Tipton Airport, and for now it will be a project of Anne Arundel.

However, officials from both counties said they still are working together, and Howard County could get back into the act when legislation is submitted to the General Assembly this session.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Howard representatives on the Tipton Advisory Committee, which is overseeing plans to turn the dormant military airfield at Fort Meade into a general aviation airport, lobbied in December to be included in draft legislation.

Anne Arundel officials agreed.

Since then, on the advice of county lawyers, County Executive John G. Gary has decided it would be better to exclude Howard County, said Samuel F. Minnitte, Gary's chief of staff and Tipton project manager for the county.

Ecker had expressed concern last year about taking on liability for environmental problems at the 310-acre airport.

Tipton, south of Route 32 near Route 198, is a former Army artillery training area that is the last Fort Meade parcel available to be turned over for civilian use as part of the 1988 Base Realignment and Closure Act.

If Howard decides it wants to be a full partner, it can be added to the legislation and included in the authority. It would harder to change the legislation to reflect Ecker backing out, Minnitte told the advisory committee yesterday.

Howard planning and zoning director Joseph Rutter, who was not at the meeting, agreed.

"We would be in a bind if we were both in the enabling legislation," and Howard County wanted to withdraw, he said. "It's still very much a spirit of cooperation."

In another development, airport manager John Lucas and several advisory committee members, many of them pilots, said they oppose an Federal Aviation Administration proposal to reorganize airspace near Tipton.

The FAA proposal would expand the boundary of airspace controlled by the Baltimore-Washington International Airport tower south to Route 32, which would not include Tipton. Tipton is surrounded by a buffer of uncontrolled airspace in which pilots need no special permission or extra training to fly.

For an inexperienced pilot, the difference between flying in uncontrolled airspace and tower-controlled airspace is similar to the difference between driving on country roads and driving in a large city, Lucas said.

"What I'm afraid is going to happen is people will get more and more afraid of Tipton [because it would be so close to BWI airspace], and it will reduce the potential business," Lucas said. In proposing the new boundaries, the FAA is saying, in effect, " 'It's your back yard, but we're going to use it,' " he said.

Committee members said they would ask Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Wayne T. Gilchrest to help them fight the expansion.

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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