Witham Field in Stuart, Florida, is in the midst of an escalating legal battle that could eventually lead to the deferment of maintenance and, even more serious, the shortening of Runway 12/30. AOPA Florida Regional Representative Nelson Rhodes testified last week at a Martin County Commission meeting. He pointed out the value of the airport with its more than 50 years of service to the community and its importance as a staging area for disaster relief. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Bill Frick also spoke on behalf of the airport. At issue is a lawsuit filed by 16 residents, claiming that a 460-foot runway extension built in 1998 has created a nuisance. The commissioners decided to pursue the shortening of the runway, even though their own consultant's report showed that it would only lead to 61 more homes being impacted with noise issues because of the airport's layout. The county is looking at postponing airport upgrades to save money so that it can prepare the paperwork needed to ask the FAA for permission to shorten the runway. The county also wants to put money in reserve for lawsuits. Airport users are expected to file a countersuit to keep the runway intact, according to The Stuart News.
July 28, 2006