Six people from the same street showed up at Punta Gorda Airport hearing to share their frustration with living at the end of the runway.
No one else showed up earlier this month to comment on the environmental impact of four airport projects that could begin as soon as November. The hearing was held March 5 at the Charlotte Harbor Conference and Event Center in Punta Gorda.
Holding a hearing is a federal requirement before construction can begin. Projects under review at the hearing were:
- extending a runway and rebuilding another
- expanding parking
- building a new terminal for non-airline flights
- filling in wetlands near runways to keep wetland birds away from airplane engines.
Betty Richardson spoke for her neighbors on Osterman Boulevard when she asked if the upcoming runway extension would make things worse for those who live at the end of a runway known only as 4:22.
The short answer was it would likely be worse for part of the project and better for the other part of the project, said Project Manager Ron Ridenour. All airline flights will be diverted to one runway or the other while each is under construction. The main runway will not be extended but must be rebuilt, because it is deteriorating, he said.
The residential area known as Charlotte Ranchettes is located immediately to the west of the airport. Some residents have told the Sun that the airport noise is not an issue for them. But residents at the hearing said they are the first homes at the end of the runway.
Richardson said she and her husband bought their property about 40 years ago, and the airport had already been there for several decades. Activity has increased dramatically in recent years, however.
A new $16.4 million terminal is planned for the non-airline flights, called general aviation. Moving the existing general aviation terminal will allow the airport better expansion options for commercial airlines including Allegiant planes, airport officials have said.
Filling wetlands is required to prevent potentially dangerous mid-air collisions with wildlife, such as what brought down a US Airways flight in New York City in 2009. Punta Gorda Airport reported 53 bird strikes in 2018 but none with substantial damage.
These projects do not use Charlotte County taxpayer funds, but rely mostly on federal grants as well as airport revenue, said Ridenour. The airport is not guaranteed the grants, but has a good chance of being awarded them, he said.