About 40 attend public hearing about Naples airport runway expansion
By TRACY X. MIGUEL
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
NAPLES — The Naples Airport Authority heard an equal balance of comments at Wednesday’s public hearing about a runway extension.
About 40 Naples residents attended the hearing to discuss the Naples Municipal Airport’s draft environmental assessment for its proposed improvements to a runway.
For nearly two hours, residents spoke at the Norris Community Center, while officials collected oral comments from them.
The airport is proposing to extend the runway’s safety zones by 510 feet on the south end and 800 feet on the north end. This would increase the declared distance of the runway to 5,800 feet for takeoff, but it would remain 5,000 feet for landing.
Ten people spoke at a podium during the meeting and seven declined to speak.
Naples resident Martin Bercovici, who lives near the airport flight path, said he opposed the extension.
Bercovici, like other speakers, expressed his concern that the runway expansion could encourage commercial air service in Naples.
“We have a perfectly viable airport in Fort Myers,” Bercovici said.
Sue Smith, of Naples, echoed Bercovici.
Smith was also upset that the hearing was held when many seasonal residents are not in town.
Louis Moore voiced his support for the airport’s proposed runway improvements.
“You have to remember that the airport was here first,” Moore said, adding that the buildings, homes and population growth came later.
As a pilot, Moore said the additional runway is important for safety issues.
“It is a safety issue and not a commercial issue,” Moore said.
Sharon Kenny, president of the Aqualane Shores association, said the airport didn’t host public workshops about the expansion.
“The FAA is being told that these public workshops were held and that is a lie,” Kenny said. “Let me repeat, that is a lie.”
Kenny noted the draft environmental assessment states that a public hearing will be held prior to the completion of the draft and that Wednesday’s meeting was not a public meeting.
Ervin Dehn, airport development director, disagreed.
Dehn said the airport has been discussing the proposed improvements at its public meetings for more than two years.
Dehn also said the hearing could not wait for seasonal residents to return to Naples since business had to continue.
According to Dehn, the airport has received letters from residents who support and oppose the runway expansion.
Consultants will respond to every comment collected and these will be attached to the draft document and returned to the FAA for review, Dehn said.
The draft shows that there are no adverse environmental effects as a result of the proposed runway expansion. It also shows a noise reduction due to the runway’s longer takeoff length.
Ultimately, the FAA will make the final decision regarding approval of the runway’s extension.
It is estimated that the agency will respond by the end of the year, Dehn said.
“I think that the Naples Airport Authority has already made up its mind of what to do,” Bercovici said after speaking.
Those who were unable to attend the meeting but would like to add their input can review and comment on the draft environmental assessment until Sept. 15 on the airport’s website, at Collier County public libraries, at Naples City Hall and at Naples Municipal Airport, 160 Aviation Drive N.
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/
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