Airport Acquires Land to Comply With FAA Rules
Acquisition of a heavily forested 12.5 acres brings the Moore County Airport's total holdings to more than 500 acres.
The latest purchase, at almost $1.2 million, does not increase a runway or a ramp but does bring the airport more closely into compliance with increasingly stringent federal requirements.
For the time being, it will involve removal of a limited number of trees on the newly acquired property - and little else. But eventually, the additional acreage will allow the airport to control more of its adjacent territory.
"This has been an issue for 10 or more years, and the FAA has been patient with us," said Ron Maness, airport executive director.
The issue is the height of trees flanking land already owned by the airport. The trees are too tall to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration landing requirements.
Maness said the FAA has allowed the airport to continue operating in violation of height restrictions because of a temporary pole bearing a warning light at the edge of the tree line.
Moore County owns the airport, but the airport cannot operate without FAA authorization. FAA has poured millions of dollars into the local airport in the past 20 years, all for compliance with federal safety regulations.
The most striking change in recent years has been a rerouting of N.C. 22, which included removal of a traffic signal light at the former intersection with Airport Road. The light is gone, and the intersection has been replaced with a four-spoked roundabout leading motorists in the direction of Sandhills Community College, Whispering Pines, Southern Pines or Carthage.
To acquire the additional acreage to meet the latest air traffic safety need, the airport applied to the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for a grant from the state's FAA allocation.
Because the airport no longer offers passenger service, grants are channeled to the local airport through NCDOT, rather than through direct FAA allocations. FAA grants require matching funds from state and local governments - 5 percent each.
But this time, when airport officials applied for a grant, state transportation officials recommended that the airport buy not only the land with the too-tall trees but also adjacent property as a means of controlling further restrictive growth that could affect flight safety patterns.
"The state wanted us to acquire all of the property because those trees could continue to grow and affect our approach to the runway," Maness said.
The state agreed to add money to the pot to help pay for the new acreage.
Maness said the land was acquired through negotiation with the family that owns the property and that the use of eminent domain was not necessary The agreement calls for the land to remain in use by the family for the immediate future, with the stipulation that the problem trees will be removed.
Tree removal has not begun. The airport authority offered the family the option of cutting the trees themselves and keeping profit from sale of the wood. If the family elects not to accept this offer, the airport will contract the work according to legal requirements.
"Just the bare minimum number of trees will be removed," Maness said.
Maness said a surveyor checked trees on the property and marked the ones targeted for removal. None of the trees provides habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
In addition, some trees are being voluntarily removed on the nearby Sandhills Community College campus.
Maness said the need to acquire adjacent land has become increasingly obvious in recent years because of growing development on the outskirts of the airport, including shopping centers and a large residential development.
The authority has handled the latest transaction involving land adjacent to the airport with minimum publicity at the request of the family. Public discussion was held to a minimum during the board of commissioners' meeting at which the sale was approved.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
More like this story