Beaufort County, Hilton Head officials vote to extend airport runway

-- Oct. 28--After more than four hours of discussion and staunch opposition from nearby residents, Beaufort County and Town of Hilton Head Island officials voted to support extending the Hilton Head Island Airport runway to as much as 5,400...

"Regarding future flights if the runway is extended, we can't comment specifically, but we're always reviewing our schedule for opportunities to establish successful service if customer demand warrants it," Banstetter said.

A group of Palmetto Hall, Baygall and Port Royal residents, as well as members of St. James Baptist Church, challenged Talbert and Bright's findings, calling them incomplete.

The report fails to adequately analyze the costs and benefits of potential alternative runway lengths, said Ron Smetek, a Palmetto Hall resident.

He and others also argue the cost figures provided by Talbert and Bright for the proposed runway lengths do not take into account declines in property values to homes and real estate near the airport that will result from increased noise, which will affect county tax revenue.

Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer also disputed Talbert and Bright's claims that regional jets could takeoff on the 4,597 feet of useable runway and questioned other numbers provided by the consultant. Baer also said the study inflates forecasts for future airport activity, and understates the potential for newer turboprops planes to provide commercial service, which require a shorter runway of 4,600 feet and are quieter.

"We pay a lot more money for not much added runway performance," he said. "This study is full of gaps, holes and inconsistencies ... . Rushing to vote with known impacts to the north end of the island and missing and loose data will reflect poorly on the councils."

Hilton Head Island Town Councilman Drew Laughlin saw the issue differently.

"It is irresponsible for us to do nothing," he said. "And if we miss this opportunity, we might not get it again. We need to keep our options open. I'm not convinced of the benefits of going to the full 5,400 feet. I think 5,000 feet gives a decent regard to the folks (north of the runway). Five thousand feet will enhance profitability of the airlines, bringing more passengers to Hilton Head and enhance safety."

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