Airport Hazard Ordinance put on backburner


Jun. 9--The Airport Hazard Ordinance at Hazleton Municipal Airport in Hazle Township is on temporary hold at the request of the city.

The city's request for the township to extend the expiration date on Keystone Opportunity and Keystone Opportunity Expansion zones near the airport is on temporary hold at the request of the township.

The board of township supervisors on Monday were prepared to formally adopt an Airport Hazard Ordinance, which would set restrictions on the height of objects, such as trees and buildings, in an area that extends vertically and horizontally into airspace around the airport.

The purpose of the ordinance is to ensure an obstacle-free flight path to aircraft taking off or landing at the airport.

Adoption of the ordinance is also a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandate.

According to Robert Dougherty, the city's consulting engineer, a delay in adoption of the ordinance is requested to allow city officials more time to review the ordinance's proposed restrictions and to prepare comment if necessary.

The supervisors unanimously approved a motion to table adoption of the ordinance until the board's July public meeting.

In addition to requesting a delay in the adoption of the Airport Hazard Ordinance, Dougherty also submitted to the board of supervisors a request to add a seven-year extension to the 2009 expiration date on tax-abatement incentives on four parcels of city-owned land near the airport.

The land is situated on the south side of the runway.

Three of the four parcels, which encompass a combined total of 95 acres, are currently designated Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones (KOEZ).

The remaining parcel, a 45-acre plot, is currently designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ).

The extension would set a 2017 expiration date on the KOZ and a 2020 date on the KOEZ.

KOZ and KOEZ designations are assigned by local, school district and county taxing bodies on specific geographic areas where specific state and local taxes are abated for a specific time period as an incentive to development.

Dougherty said the city is working to attract development on the parcels, and an extension to the tax-abatement incentive would help keep the land attractive to potential developers.

According to William Gallagher, supervisors chairman, the board has no outright objection to extending the KOZ and KOEZ on the land near the airport. But the board postponed immediate action on the request in order to research whether earned income tax could be assessed on the earnings of people employed in the zone in the future.

"If a developer should build, say a warehouse or a shipping business on the land near the airport in the future, would the employee earnings be taxable? Lets find out the answer to that question before we act on this," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said a special meeting would be called in "a week or two" to act on the extension request.

The potential for future development on the land is also why city officials want to take a closer look at the Hazard Ordinance to ensure it is not overly restrictive.

"We are certainly in favor of the ordinance. It would be advantageous to all concerned. We are simply requesting a little more time to review it before adoption," Doughtery said.

According to Pedri, none of the trees or buildings currently in the airport hazard area would have to be removed under the ordinance as it is presently written.

The concern, Pedri said, is that future construction does not obstruct air traffic.