Despite some opposition from residents, Ormond Beach is moving ahead with its runway extension project at the city’s municipal airport.
The City Commission June 1 unanimously approved a resolution to authorize a $45,000 supplemental environmental assessment by Hoyle, Tanner & Associates for the project.
An environmental assessment was prepared two years ago with the Federal Aviation Administration finding no significant impact. But with a change in the project’s plan, the FAA has required a second assessment, Airport Manager Steven Lichliter said.
The original plan called for Runway 9/27 to be extended 1,000 feet to the west. The city received a grant from the FAA to fund the extension of the runway and Taxiway Alpha. But the city was unable to meet the grant’s condition to acquire easements to accommodate the runway protection zone.
The new plan is to construct a 600-foot extension to the west with the runway protection zone entirely on airport property.
Mayor Bill Partington questioned why the city was required to pay for a second environmental assessment.
“We already paid good money for an environmental assessment for 1,000 feet going to the west. … Now we’re going to go 600 feet, keep this project entirely on Ormond Beach airport property, but the FAA requires us to do a supplemental environmental analysis, even though we’re going to do 400 feet less than what we were going to do. Now we have to pay again, basically,” he said.
“City staff did inquire to try to better understand the justification for it,” Mr. Lichliter responded, “But the bottom line is the FAA is requiring the supplemental assessment to address the purpose and need for the project and study any changes that perhaps were not studied during the first environmental assessment.”
The runway extension project was included in the airport master plan approved in 2015 to provide safety improvements “and help the airport better serve as a transportation facility,” according to a city staff report, prepared by Brian Rademacher, the city’s economic development director.
“Many corporate twin engine turboprops and lighter jets that currently use the airport can operate more efficiently and safely with runway lengths between 4,600 and 5,000 feet,” the report states. “The runway extension may also reduce the impacts of aircraft noise. Extending the runway will result in aircraft having a greater linear distance to climb as they travel. As a result, noise impacts may be mitigated to a degree by the higher altitude of these aircraft.”
Eight Ormond Beach residents spoke during public discussion with five opposing the project, some eliciting applause from other residents in attendance.
The item was originally in the consent agenda but was pulled by Commissioner Rob Littleton to address residents’ opposition to the project and some of the claims made on social media.
“I pulled this item because I didn’t want it to seem like this was being railroaded through and I wanted staff to address a couple things I’ve seen online that seem quite out there,” Commissioner Littleton explained.
He asked Mr. Rademacher if commercial passenger jets would be landing at the airport after the runway is extended. Mr. Rademacher said that was not true.
“It is a general aviation facility that serves as a reliever but will not carry those type of aircraft,” he said.
Mr. Rademacher also answered the noise question, saying the extension would reduce, not increase, noise on takeoffs and landings.
Deputy Mayor Susan Persis asked about tree clearance for the project. Mr. Lichliter said there will be clearing on airport property “to provide necessary clear zones on both sides and on the end of the runway.”
Completion of the second environmental assessment will be followed by a 30-day public comment period and review by the FAA.
In other business:
Since the Volusia County Council agreed in April to buy 36 acres of the Plantation Oaks development for environmental preservation, protests against the development adjacent to the Ormond Scenic Loop seem to have died down.
There were no public comments at the June 1 meeting as commissioners unanimously approved a preliminary plat for the development’s Phase 1A that calls for 121 single-family lots on about 100 acres and a neighborhood commercial center of 25,000 square feet.
The preliminary plat for the subdivision allows developer Parker Mynchenberg to proceed with construction and then return to the commission for approval of the final plat, City Planning Director Steven Spraker said.