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End could be imminent for airport

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.