The 13-member board developing a reuse plan for the Brunswick Naval Air Station voted unanimously Wednesday night in favor of retaining an airfield at the base as members moved closer to adopting a final plan.
The vote by the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority recommends that the Navy transfer the base's two runways and 800 adjacent acres to a yet-to-be-named airport authority that would continue to run an airport in Brunswick, despite objections from neighbors. The Navy base is set to close in 2011.
''This (decision to maintain an aviation use) was something of extraordinary importance to the community. We have passed an important milestone,'' said Martin Wilk, chairman of the redevelopment authority.
Though the airport won't be used for commercial flights, aviation consultants have said Brunswick would be suited for general and corporate aviation purposes as well as aircraft maintenance and overhaul.
The decision, which needs approval from the U.S. Navy, dashed the hopes of Brunswick residents who want to remove airplanes and the noise they make from their neighborhoods.
''We've had an airport there for a long time. I'd like to suggest it is no longer needed,'' said Harry Hopcroft of Brunswick.
Hopcroft said noise as well as the cost of maintaining an airport concerned him.
But Wilk assured him that an airport authority eventually would be formed and become responsible for costs.
Authority members also recommended Wednesday that the Navy transfer a number of air station buildings and open space to the town and to Bowdoin College, though one of those proposals left the board sharply divided.
Members voted 8-5 to ask that the Navy authorize the transfer of Neptune Hall to the town.
Recreation department officials say Neptune Hall, which includes an indoor running track, basketball courts and locker rooms, could not only meet the community's recreation needs, but also could serve as the new home for the People Plus Center, a program for seniors that will need to be moved if a proposed downtown redevelopment project moves forward as expected.
State Rep. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick argued against the transfer, saying he could not support the proposal without assurances from the town that it would become a regional recreation center serving people outside Brunswick.
''I think the location is wrong and the expense it will bring to the (local) taxpayer is wrong,'' Gerzofsky said.
But Forrest Lowe, another member of the authority, said, ''It's a wonderful facility. The pent-up demand in Brunswick for the services that building can provide is well documented.''
There was no disagreement on the other recommended transfers. None of the proposals is certain because the federal government has the final authority. Among the highlights:
The town of Brunswick, 1,100 acres of open space for wildlife protection and for a new pedestrian trail system.
Bowdoin College, 170 acres of land for educational use.
The Brunswick-Topsham Water District, a 26-acre parcel for aquifer protection.
Family Focus, two buildings, which it plans to convert to a child center serving up to 100 children.
The Maine State Museum, the base chapel and surrounding land for a naval air museum.
Southern Maine Community College, four buildings for a new campus serving up to 2,000 students.
Brunswick, 5 acres for a new police station.
Brunswick Police Department, the indoor small-arms range at the base.
According to a timetable established by authority officials, the group expects to have a final reuse plan in place by mid-December.
Once that plan has been approved, a new Implementation Committee will be formed to carry out the plan.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 725-8795 or at
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