The long-term future of the Kent State University Airport could be finalized next year after more than a decade of effort.
About a dozen members of an audience of several dozen at a public meeting July 28 at Stow-Munroe Falls High School made a mixture of positive and negative comments about the direction the 300-acre, Stow-based airport may be headed, with frequent applause for both sides.
Stow resident Alan Narvy said he has as many as 20 planes flying over his home every hour and is upset about projections that operations will increase in coming years.
"We're the ones who are going to take the heat from increased traffic," he said.
Stow resident Dick Wilson said planes frequently fly over his Preakness Drive home, but he has a different view.
"You know what, I have no problem with it," he said. "I love the airplanes, I love the greenspace."
It was the last of three such meetings to formulate a 20-year master plan since March 2013 after a failed earlier effort. The project has been overseen by a steering committee of university, community, Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration representatives.
A Community Liaison Group of stakeholders, including local officials, residents and students, has also been involved.
Aileen Maguire Meyer, planning department manager for C&S Companies, which drafted seven alternatives, said the preferred option is one that would allow planes with a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds, though not including larger commercial planes, and the construction of new terminal and academic buildings.
The airport would also continue to be available for public use, including the annual Aviation Heritage Fair, but "would not be actively marketed," said Meyer.
"The airport primarily serves the flight training program for the university," she said.
Meyer said the option is in the lead due to a relatively high score of 25 on a 32-point rating system and community feedback. The only other plan that scored higher, 30 points, is similar, but would cap the weight at 12,500 pounds.
Other comments made at the meeting were also mixed. Stow resident Roy Howarter, the Community Liaison Group's "token opposition member," said the airport is "too small."
"Let's move it to a good place," he said. "Let's move the airport before [a plane] crashes with one of our schools, our homes or churches and kills someone."
Kent resident Terry Sontheimer, a pilot and graduate of the KSU flight program, countered that the danger was not that great.
"Your odds of being crashed into by one of those killer airplanes compared to a motor vehicle is probably 10,000 to one," he said.
Former Munroe Falls City Council member Ron Meyer said he is convinced air traffic will increase and offered a particularly harsh assessment.
"Get ready folks, any of you who live anywhere around the airport," said Meyer, adding that at one time KSU was planning to close down the airport and never did.
"This whole thing is a farce," he said.
Retired KSU instructor Diane Pencin said the airport's existence was not kept a secret from nearby residents when they purchased their homes.
"If you don't like planes, then why would you ever think of living near an airport?" she asked.
Stow resident Rob Koch said he believes "the airport is outdated" and he would prefer capping the planes' weights at 12,500 pounds, but is not opposed to the plan.
"You keep that airport small, don't expand it, I'm fine with it," said Koch.
Other plans considered would have variously made no changes, other than needed maintenance upgrades of existing facilities, allowed larger aircraft with runway extensions of up to 1,000 feet, moving academic programs elsewhere, probably the Portage County Airport in Shalersville, and increasing commercial usage or separating commercial and training operations within the airport.
One option off the table is closing the airport outright, which was suggested by a previous master plan developed in 2004-06.
"(The FAA) did not accept the last master plan because the preferred alternative was closing the airport," Aileen Meyer said after the meeting.
Meyer said the plan and public comments collected will go to the university's board of trustees later this year, then if the Board approves it, it will go to the FAA, which typically has a three-month review period before a final decision is made.
"I can't give you a definite timeline," she told the Stow Sentry after the meeting.
Written comments will continue to be accepted through Aug. 12 and may be submitted online via the project's website, www.KSUAirportPlan.com, where additional information is also available, or sent via mail to Aileen Maguire Meyer, C&S Engineers, Inc., 20445 Emerald Parkway, Suite 100, Cleveland 44135.
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