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Town of Hilton Head steals county airport

Town of Hilton Head steals county airport

By Kate Opalewski

Hilton Head Island has taken a step toward creating zoning that could hamper general aviation development at Hilton Head Island Airport in Beaufort County, S.C.

The Hilton Head Town Council unanimously approved on Dec. 18 a rezoning proposal that would give them ultimate control over the airport. AOPA had asked the town council not to conduct a final vote and to suspend the proposal from further consideration until a thorough impact study could be completed.

“The city’s action potentially puts the county, which is the airport sponsor, in a state of non-compliance with federal grant obligations through no fault of the county,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. “This limits the county’s ability to ensure safe operations at the airport by controlling the compatible use of adjacent properties. AOPA will work with the county to seek modifications to the city’s ordinance.”

Although the county sponsors the airport, the airport property lies within the city’s boundaries.

Within the past couple of years, issues involving runway extension for increased safety and better airline access, treetop removal, general aviation landing fees, mandatory VFR flight paths, and hangar rental have hovered around the airport.

A master plan update process at the airport has provoked fear in airport opponents who say a proposed runway extension would bring in more jet traffic and create more noise issues. Others want an expansion in order to keep the current air carrier service. The most extreme opponents want to close the airport. AOPA plans to make sure that doesn't happen.

December 20, 2007

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