Lawrence Municipal Airport
Improvements to the Lawrence Municipal Airport
Concerns are rising in the city's aviation community that a proposed 900-acre business park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport could hinder the city's ability to attract millions in federal aviation grants.
"We could leave $20 million to $30 million on the table if we don't do this right," said Nelson Krueger, a Lawrence resident and professional pilot who has used the Lawrence airport for the last 40 years.
Krueger and others are concerned that the new business park - designed to attract what developers hope will be 10,000 jobs over a 25-year period - could encroach on areas the Federal Aviation Administration believes must be development-free in case an aircraft has problems during takeoff or landing.
But Anthony Santaularia - a member of the Lawrence-based development group that has laid out a 25-year plan to develop the areas south, east and west of the airport - said he wants to comply with FAA recommendations.
"We're not going to put the airport in any jeopardy at all," Santaularia said. "We think the airport is a great asset. We're dedicated to work with the FAA and to work with the city to improve the airport."
Rick Bryant, chairman of the city's Aviation Advisory Board, said his group is particularly watching development plans for about 12 acres of farmland northeast of a photography studio at U.S. Highway 24-40 and North Seventh Street.
That property is at the end of one of the airport's major runways. The FAA considers it an important open space to allow troubled aircraft to land or take off. The property is included in a 140-acre annexation request that developers submitted to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department.
Santaularia said although a previous plan once showed buildings in that area, the project has been revised to keep that area free of development - other than to allow two streets and some limited parking.
Bryant said the change in plans was welcome - both he and Krueger say they support the general idea of a business park near the airport - but he wants to do more checking with the FAA to determine whether the streets and parking would be an issue.
"I know from a pure aviation standpoint, we would prefer to see nothing in that area so there is no gray area for the FAA to have to interpret," Bryant said.
Attempts to reach the FAA regulator who is working with the Lawrence airport were unsuccessful.
The FAA cannot stop the city from allowing development in the area, but the FAA can refuse to fund future aviation grants to the city.
That, Bryant said, would be a major loss to the airport. In the last eight years, the city has received about $7 million in FAA grants to extend runways that allow larger business jets to use the airport. The funding also has been used to add safety equipment and instrumentation at the airport.
Bryant said FAA grants figure prominently in expansion plans at the airport. He said in the next five years, airport leaders would like to build a 400-foot runway extension that would allow for small commuter and charter jets to use the airport.
Airport leaders have no plans to create a regional commuter service, Bryant said, but instead want to be able to accommodate larger charter planes - especially for Big 12 athletic teams - that would like to fly directly to Lawrence.