Greenwood doesn’t want apartments to be built across from the city airport, partially to keep residents safe and partially to limit how many people nearby might not want the airport to grow.
The more homes or apartments are built around the airport, the more limited the airport would be in increasing jet traffic and extending its runway during the next few decades, city planning director Bill Peeples said. The Federal Aviation Administration would consider the concerns of residents before allowing expansions or awarding grants, he said.
The city has asked Marion County to stop a 220- apartment complex from being built on the north side of County Line Road and across from Airport Parkway, which leads to the airport.
“We’re concerned that by allowing housing around the airport, we are providing built-in remonstrance to airport operations in the future,” Peeples said.
The area is already surrounded by commercial properties, including a Walmart Supercenter, a Kroger grocery store, medical offices and a hospital. Subdivisions are nearby.
But plane traffic overhead doesn’t bother people who are popping into a store to buy groceries or going to work the same way it frustrates residents who live nearby, Peeples said. Three or four jets fly out of the airport per day, and many small propeller planes take off and land as the pilots choose.
Also, a fatal plane crash in a subdivision near the airport in July showed that building more neighborhoods near the airport isn’t a good idea if residents are going to be kept safe, city attorney Krista Taggart said. In the crash, pilot William Gilliland of Greenwood died, and the aircraft damaged two homes. The injuries to people on the ground were minor.
Moving not in plans
Closing or moving the airport has been suggested as solutions to expansion and safety concerns, but neither would work, Mayor Mark Myers said.
Two planes crashed shortly after takeoff from the Greenwood Municipal Airport this year, inspiring a small campaign to close the airport. Closing the airport isn’t possible due to Federal Aviation Administration requirements, Myers said. Greenwood would have to prove the local economy wouldn’t be damaged if the airport closed, and the city would have to pay back the federal funding it has received for airport projects, such as recently extending the runway, he said. The city has received at least $14 million in federal grants it would have to repay.
“Do you close down a road because there’s been an accident?” he said.
Safety is already heavily emphasized at the airport, since the Federal Aviation Administration requires regular inspections for planes and dozens of hours of flight time before pilots can fly on their own, airport manager Rusty Nichols said. The training requirements and inspections make flying safer than driving a car, he said.
A prior mayor’s idea to move the airport isn’t an option, either, Myers said. Former Mayor Charles Henderson’s idea to open the airport land for development would require the time and money to build a new airport, and the current location is a good one for an airport, he said.
Future pushback the city could get from new neighbors would most likely be about jet noise, if jet traffic increased, Peeples said. If the city could prevent home or apartment construction in the first place, then the airport would have fewer opponents to expansion in future, he said.
The city met with Marion County officials and the developer last week, asking for the development to be stopped.
The city has stopped developers from building apartments near the airport within the city limits but has to negotiate with Marion County about projects on the north side of County Line Road, Peeples said.
The FAA dictates how tall buildings can be near the airport. Any structure within 5,000 feet, or about a mile, must be under
90 feet tall, as compared to the runway. The closer the property is to the end of a runway, the shorter a building has to be.
If the developer moves forward with the apartment project, the city will ask that developers adapt its design to be a better neighbor for the airport by installing triple-paned windows and extra insulation in new homes and apartments so noise from planes isn’t as likely to bother residents, Peeples said.