We were disappointed by the city’s answers to citizen runway extension questions, as reported in the June 9th Observer.
The questions were raised at the May 10 OB Life airport meeting, where citizens thought they would be giving input on the proposed 600-foot runway extension decision but instead received, at a cost of $17,558-plus, an informational presentation on a decision apparently already made.
In 2005, a runway extension proposal was rejected by a packed commission chamber and a 5-0 City Commission vote. Somehow, the current runway extension appeared in the 2015 airport master plan update, with few members of the general public attending three 2015 workshops. To date, there has been no public hearing on the runway extension and no city commission vote, and we still do not know if or when a public hearing will be scheduled.
The city claims there is no planned or proposed 400-foot extension to the east, though this extension remains in the 2015 master plan and would require relocation of Airport Road. The city concedes an eastern extension can still be considered in the 2025 airport master plan update.
The Sierra Club Florida Chapter has notified the FAA directly of its objection to such a plan, and the FAA has agreed to keep the Sierra Club's objection on file for future consideration. The city still has not revealed how many Ormond Beach homes are located within 2.5 miles of the airport. Instead, we are told there are 1,228 parcels in unincorporated Volusia County within the County’s (2.5 mile) Airport Hazard Protection Zone. Where is the Ormond Beach count?
The city has withheld a schedule of airport repayments of money borrowed from the general fund. The city implied regular repayments, but nothing has been repaid since 2015. The question received an evasive answer, citing the last zero loan balance as occurring in 2005, with the explanation that “There are too many variables to predict when the loan will be fully repaid.”
The General Fund airport debt will reach $686,000 on October 1st . We still have not been given an explanation as to why the debt has escalated so quickly in a few short years. FAA guidelines say municipal airports should not be subsidized by taxpayers.
Questioning suspended meetings of the 2009 Noise Abatement Task Force, we were told the city regularly communicates noise abatement procedures to local flight schools and pilots. But the city has long discontinued noise abatement communications to and from those citizens and neighborhoods now suffering noise impacts.
The city cites longer runways as providing greater safety, but the existing runways meet all the FAA and pilot safety standards for current aircraft users, with no safety complaints over six decades.
Unanswered questions indicate a low level of transparency in airport decisions that benefit special interests. We think it appropriate for the commission to call a special meeting, as it did with the Union Church property, providing an opportunity for citizens to have three minutes to make a case for or against the extension and have the commission vote it up or down.
Julie and Ken Sipes
Citizens Against Runway Extension