Archived Story

End could be imminent for airport

Published 10:32am Thursday, June 6, 2013

CHESAPEAKE — By the end of next week Lawrence County Commissioners should know if they have the go-ahead to try to turn the county airport into the latest shopping venue for the Tri-State.

Instead of having their regular Thursday session, Commissioners Bill Pratt and Freddie Hayes will meet in executive session with the attorneys for the Richard Wilson family over the upcoming eminent domain lawsuit.

“We will try to come up with an agreement on the eminent domain lawsuit and structure an agreement to put the property up for sale,” Pratt said.

More than a year ago, the commissioners filed a petition in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court to acquire through eminent domain 47 acres contiguous to the current boundaries of the Chesapeake airport. That land is currently owned by the Richard Wilson family Adding the acreage to the airport was to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations to provide an adequate approach to the air strips including trimming or removing trees at the ends of the runways.

However since then, Pratt has pushed to see if the airport could be commercially developed. The commissioner has an ally in Wilson who has long been a vocal opponent of the airport saying the land is in a prime location and should be developed.

In 1936 the Wilson family through North Kenova Holding Co. and C.L. and Mabel Ritter deeded the land where the airport stands to the county. The county was allowed to use the property as long as it was the site for an airport. Should the county shut down the airport for a period of one year, the property would revert back to the original conveyors.

If the commission and the Wilson heirs can reach a financial arrangement, the county could cease using the land as an airport.

“We will put an agreement in place to put the property for sale and the airport will remain open until we get a buyer,” Pratt said.

Recently Pratt contacted the FAA to determine what, if any, repercussions would be if the county ceased to have the airport including whether any grant money used in the past to improve the site would have to be paid back.

“The FAA has sent me word they are working on my questions,” Pratt said.

If the Chesapeake site is shut down, the county would try to relocate the airport.

  • Poor Richard

    To expand my earlier comment, the commissioners reasoning is extremely flawed using a strip mall and safety as the criteria to end a long time binding lease – again with no documentation or studies to back it up. What I have noted is that elected officials over many years have done absolutely NOTHING to market or expand the existing airport and I doubt that would ever change if a new airport was built. They have been compliant in turning the airport over to a group of people to operate ‘status quo’ without any serious management, marketing or upgrades to the facility. I THINK IT IS OBVIOUS TO ALL CITIZENS THAT THE COUNTY HAS NOT BEEN FULLY COMMITTED OR VESTED IN SUPPORTING THE EXISTING AIRPORT SINCE ITS EARLY ESTABLISHMENT.

    The airport is less than 1000 feet from an EMPTY strip mall and not far from another that lost a major store, the Chesapeake shopping area always has empty stores and so do the Ironton shopping centers. Further, not many Ohio people shop in Ohio (which is why the shopping centers are not successful) like I do but cross the river at one of the SIX bridges connecting the two other states to our county – you know where OHIO receives absolutely no taxes from those businesses or sales.

    There is a traffic congestion issue that ODOT (and taxpayers) would have to deal with and we already have a traffic congestion problem around Wal-Mart and Lowes and Chesapeake Schools that no one seems to be addressing.

    It appears to me that county commissioners have not consulted those living in the area of the airport nor have they opened a forum for public discussion. There is no assurance that state and/or federal permits can be obtained for building yet another unsuccessful strip mall and who the heck wants another one with all the same stores as in every strip mall from here to Cleveland? The safety factor is mute given that airports in every major city in the US have planes (747s) flying directly over their cities and many planes that fly directly and low over major interstates. In Atlanta there can be as many as 20 planes in a holding pattern over that city waiting to land.

    Again, as in the past, elected officials want to pull a decision out the air with NOTHING substantial to back it up. NO STUDIES, NO DOCUMENTATION, NO PUBLIC MEETINGS, NO NOTHING!

    (Report comment)

    • Digi

      I totally agree with you! No one seems to care what else is going on and I have a feeling this airport deal will happen behind closed doors and be a done deal before we know it! Something just isn’t right, I too would love to know who is going to pocket the most money from this deal!

      (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    This decision seems a bit rushed and premature to me given the longtime use of this land as an airport. I have not seen any opinions in the newspaper in support of Pratt’s big idea, only comments to keep the airport. The decision also appears to be a one man show with Pratt, a non-experienced new commissioner, making a MAJOR decision without input from county citizens or without clearly defining the repercussions AND WITHOUT ANY RESEARCH OR STUDY TO SUPPORT IT.

    Pratt, in my opinion, has not provided any significant reasons for closing the existing airport and certainly NONE for spending millions to relocate it to another more remote area of the county. Is there a relationship between Pratt and the Wilson family that we should all know about?

    The airport has been apart of this county for many, many years and with a move by ONE county commissioner this decision is something that cannot be changed once done. Why wouldn’t the owners agree – it’s all about money, money, money, greed, and more money. Same with Pratt and the village of Chesapeake, they all have big dollar signs in their eyes.

    Pratt, you are making a grave, premature error and although you may see this as your defining moment, I see it as a defining moment in Lawrence County’s history of one of those huge mistakes that will haunt and plague the county for years into the future.

    The county is in for a fight if they close one airport just to attempt to open another one by wasting more land and taxpayer dollars. If the county can’t operate the current airport satisfactorily, then the county damn sure cannot operate another airport responsibly. Your earlier agruments were for business owners to use the airport, do you really think that will happen if the airport is relocated 30 miles or so from the industrial areas?

    Are citizens really getting the whole story about this decision?

    (Report comment)

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