The director of the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport says a proposed addition to the facility will make money for the county while making the lives of Brookhaven residents quieter.
But watchdog groups keeping the airport’s expansion plans grounded haven’t given the project their endorsement. Norma Herd, a member of PDK Watch and Open DeKalb said she is cautious about the proposal.
Director Mike Van Wie will soon ask the DeKalb County Commission to consider plans to add “T-hangars” to the facility, T-shaped buildings that fit into one another like Lego blocks. The airport would add 42 small T-hangars, and 14 large T-hangars. The buildings will hold anywhere from 63 to 75 small planes.
Van Wie said the plan would prohibit development of PDK as a commercial airport, which has long been a concern among neighbors. The development would prevent building a commercial terminal at PDK, he said.
“It’s the only space where you could build a common terminal,” he said.
He plans to ask the County Commission to sign off on an approximately $350,000 work authorization that would allow him to begin moving forward. Total construction of the hangars would cost $5.1 million. Van Wie said the airport enterprise fund would pay for it, an account comprised of fees collected from airport users.
The plan would involve closing the east-west runway pointed at Clairmont Road on the west side of PDK, which accounts for many flights over Brookhaven. The current sketch includes some larger hangars Van Wie said could be used for flight schools and mechanics, and also has empty parcels for corporations to build their own hangars.
“I think it will have very little impact on the residents to the north and south of the airport because of the types of aircraft, mainly single engine and twin engine,” Van Wie said. “For the Brookhaven residents it will make their life better because it involves closing a runway pointed at their property.”
Community members aren’t sold on the plan, according to District 2 DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader.
“People are interested,” Rader said. “I don’t think they’ve made up their mind on it, yet. They’re definitely engaged.”
Rader said he would support the plan if it minimizes noise, is consistent with the county’s plan for the airport and if the construction is “financially feasible.”
Van Wie expects revenue from hangar rentals will pay back the cost of construction after 12 years. He expects the hangars to bring in $365,000 in the first year after construction.
He said the county’s Revenue Enhancement Commission recommended adding T-hangars to increase tax collections.
“An airplane on the airport is just like a car in your garage,” Van Wie said. “You pay ad valorem tax on it.”
Though airport traffic has slowed because of the economy, Van Wie said there is a 90-person waiting list to use T-hangars.
Residents around the airport have complained about noise, pollution and unchecked growth at the airport.
Tom Swendiman, an Ashford Park resident, said he’s concerned that closing down the runway would increase noise pollution because it would result in removal of a buffer area adjacent to the runway.
“If they close the east-west runway, the land that’s there right now, 40 acres roughly, will be sold or developed and if that happens … it’s going to create more noise,” he said.
Swendiman said he’s working to get the land designated as a green space, which would protect it from development. Van Wie said the airport does not intend to remove the buffer area.
Herd remains cautious.
“People feel guarded because the past history of the airport has been they would try to push whatever they wanted in and they would try to get it done before anyone knows what they’re doing,” she said.