County Council OKs transfer of airfield from the military Tipton at Fort Meade could reopen by end of year for civilian use

June 02, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council approved last night the transfer of a military airfield to the county, bringing the former Tipton Airfield at Fort Meade a step closer to reopening as a civilian airport, possibly by the end of the year.

The council unanimously approved an initial lease of three hangars and a parking lot and the eventual transfer of the 366-acre site. The airfield is the last of more than 8,000 acres of Fort Meade to be converted to civilian use under the federal Base Realignment and Closure Act. The largest portion became the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

The army closed the airfield in September 1995 and spent more than a year clearing the ground of unexploded ordnance there. Army officials are reviewing a lease agreement for most of the land and the 3,000-foot runway. That property will be added to the lease and does not require another council vote.

The airport could open to pilots by the end of the year, said airport manager John Lucas. The airport plans to offer parking and storage space to 300 aircraft. Lucas said he will soon seek proposals from aviation businesses to offer fuel sales and other services.

A nine-member airport authority appointed this month by County Executive John G. Gary will oversee the airport. Initially, Howard County was to oversee and own the airport jointly with Anne Arundel County, but officials there backed out of the agreement over concerns about what might be contained in three landfills.

Lucas plans to apply for federal and state funding for most of the estimated $47 million that will be needed to upgrade the airport over the next several years, but the county may have to pay nearly $12.8 million of that total.

In other business, Councilwoman Diane R. Evans proposed a six-month ban on waivers for residential subdivisions in areas where schools exceed capacity.

Evans wants a ban until December while a committee appointed by the county executive studies school crowding. The proposal sparked debate over the cause of the crowding.

Evans, an Arnold Democrat who is running for county executive, accused Gary of "liberalizing" the county's law on subdivision waivers with a 1996 policy statement that allowed elementary and secondary schools to reach 115 percent and 120 percent capacity, respectively, before subdivisions were stopped.

County Attorney Philip Scheibe played down the impact of waivers on crowding in schools, blaming the Board of Education for not redistricting. "Waivers don't have a thing to do with capacity of schools," he said.

The hearing on Evans' bill will continue June 15.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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