AOPA fights Leesburg, Virginia, 'land swap'

January 27, 2005

AOPA fights Leesburg, Virginia, 'land swap'
Proposal would put 4,000 homes next to busy GA airport

A developer's plan to build more than 4,000 homes right next door to a busy general aviation airport has prompted AOPA to take action.

In Loudoun County, Virginia, developers are panting after land close to Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO) currently designated for a county park. A proposed "land swap" - exchanging the park land for developer land elsewhere along with some other financial considerations to the county - would result in more than 4,000 new homes being built adjacent to the airport.

"There are no sound reasons to 're-locate' 4,000 residences and place them directly under the traffic pattern of one of the metropolitan Washington area's busiest general aviation airports, where aircraft on approach or departure from the airport fly at an average of 800 feet above the ground," AOPA told county supervisors. "Furthermore, this proposed land 'swap' could compromise the safety of Loudoun County citizens and likely will be a springboard for future noise complaints and legal actions within the county."

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote February 1 on the requested zoning change that would permit the land swap and residential construction near Leesburg airport.

In his letter to the supervisors, AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn reminded them what they would lose if they allow incompatible development to threaten the airport.

"Leesburg Executive Airport is a thriving example of the importance of general aviation to a community," Dunn wrote. "There are three active flight schools and a fixed-based operator currently serving the airport, in addition to fuel services and hangars that generate tax dollars for the community.

"Moreover, two healthcare systems in the greater Washington metropolitan area use 'medevac' helicopter fleets based at JYO, which serve eight hospitals in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C."

Dunn also reminded the county that because it has accepted federal grants, it is obligated to keep the airport open through at least 2025. Those grants also carry a requirement that the county do everything possible to ensure that land use around the airport comply with federal and state-supported guidelines.

"The proposed residential developments, literally next door to the airport, clearly are not conducive to airport operations, nor are they in the best interests of county residents," Dunn said.

January 27, 2005