Runway plans are grounded

 

The future of a crosswind runway at the Princeton Municipal Airport appears to be up in the air.

The Princeton City Council on Sept. 26 grounded plans for a future crosswind runway when it directed its airport engineer to remove the crosswind runway from its airport layout plan.

The move has been a hot topic for years, but especially during the past month, as the council has worked on plans for a road that would extend 21st Avenue on Princeton’s west side with access through Princeton’s industrial park and the east edge of the airport property.

On Sept. 12, Councilman Thom Walker made a motion to move forward with a gated, limited-access road that would give only emergency services vehicles, such as fire and police department vehicles, access through the airport property and into the industrial park through a 21st Avenue road extension near the city’s new public safety building. The plan also calls for the placement of signs stating that only emergency vehicles can access the road and through traffic is not allowed. Walker’s motion, which passed on a 3-2 vote, called for leaving the crosswind runway in the airport layout plan if it were deemed that the crosswind runway and the access road could coexist.

But with a week between council meetings to do some fact-checking and gather information, city staff advised the council on Sept. 26 that it appeared very unlikely that the Federal Aviation Administration would allow both the access road and runway. For the city to build the access road, it would need to receive a land release from the FFA. City staff was told by FAA officials that a land release would not be issued if the crosswind runway remains on the city’s airport layout plan, City Administrator Mark Karnowski stated in a memo to the City Council.

The council’s plan was met by opposition from Princeton businessman Jeff Hammer, owner of Crystal Cabinets.

“I can’t see us throwing away the opportunity for a crosswind runway,” Hammer said. “Why not have every competitive advantage we can for Princeton?”

Hammer suggested that the airport could see expanded use in the years to come, and with that expanded use comes an increase in hangars.

“There’s a lot of tax-base potential with hangars,” Hammer said.

Removing the future ability to add a crosswind runway could hurt that tax potential, he suggested.

Councilman Dick Dobson said plans for the access road is being made in the name of public safety and to allow access for emergency vehicles to the south.

“That appeases my concerns,” Dobson said of the road and the necessity to remove the crosswind runway from the airport layout plan.

Mayor Paul Whitcomb made a motion to remove the crosswind runway from the airport layout plan. Dobson seconded the motion. It passed on a 3-1 vote with Councilmember Jules Zimmer voting in favor of the measure and Walker casting the lone dissenting vote. Councilmember Victoria Hallin was absent.

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