New airport plan doesn't fly Northeast Georgia resident plan fight

ATHENS, Ga. - Efforts to build a regional airport in northeast Georgia have barely gotten off the ground, but a group of Barrow County residents is already banding together to fight it.

Concerned Citizens of Barrow County held an organizational and informational meeting Tuesday night on the fledgling proposal for a regional airport near Winder. Although such an airport would not be built for at least another decade, organizer David Brock said opponents want to get an early jump on fighting it.

"It sounds great, but the reality of it is, it would totally destroy the rural character of Barrow County," Mr. Brock said.

The citizens' group began in Mr. Brock's neighborhood about a mile from the Northeast Georgia Regional Airport, a small facility formerly known as Winder-Barrow Airport, and since has spread to neighborhoods around the existing airport, he said.

Residents aren't bothered by the prop planes and occasional corporate jets that fly into the Barrow airport, but "there's a huge difference between that and 727s," Mr. Brock said.

Members of the group worry that a proposed 20- to 24-gate airport that would service regional jets - similar to airports in Chattanooga, Tenn., or Greenville, S.C. - would bring traffic, noise and pollution, hurt property values and hasten growth in a county that's already beginning to see Atlanta sprawl, he said.

Surviving members of the Northeast Georgia Surface and Air Transportation Commission, which was last active in the early 1990s, are pushing the idea of a regional airport in northeast Georgia. The group of business leaders and retired government officials reconvened in July after hearing that Atlanta had received a $1 million federal grant to study an airport to handle overflow at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It is now working with elected officials in 12 counties and eight cities to appoint members to fill out the commission.

There's no timetable for that, said E.H. Culpepper, the commission's vice chairman. It has held only one meeting and is a long way from picking a site, he said.

Officials have mentioned expanding airports in Macon, Chattanooga or Barrow County, or building a new airport on land Atlanta owns in Paulding and Dawson counties or elsewhere.