Trump Joins the Opposition to BIAP Runway Expansion

Count The Donald among the cacophony of voices riled up about the planned runway expansion at Palm Beach International Airport.

Part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump on Thursday called county Airports Director Bruce Pelly "an incompetent" and vowed to join forces with the town of Palm Beach and city of West Palm Beach to battle the airport's south runway extension.

"We're going to fight this tooth and nail," Trump said. "Anything involving Bruce Pelly is in my opinion going to turn out poorly. He shouldn't be allowed to run a doghouse, let alone an airport."

Pelly said Trump called him recently, lobbed an insult and threatened to sue over the proposed expansion. He chose not to respond to Trump's comments.

"I really don't want to throw insults back and forth," Pelly said.

Trump's suits against the county, the airport and Pelly date back to the 1990s over issues related to the mogul's golf course near the airport, as well as planes flying over his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.

Last week, Lewis F. Crippen, an attorney representing Trump, asked the airport for flight path data.

"This has resulted in an unacceptable level of aircraft noise at the Club, as well as potential damage to the Club structures," according to a letter from Crippen. "As you are well aware, Mar-a-Lago has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and the county has an obligation to avoid damaging this important national resource."

Members of the Citizens Committee on Airport Noise, a county advisory board, also blasted county airport officials for not keeping them in the loop with the proposed south runway expansion, which is now part of an environmental impact study under review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The committee went so far as to ask county commissioners to consider building a new airport elsewhere while federal officials look at PBIA's possible reconfiguration.

Minutes after colleagues selected him as committee chairman, Paul Agnew criticized Pelly for keeping the expansion "in the dark."

The study "is almost universally opposed by the community and is only supported by the airport staff," Agnew said.

The FAA announced the beginning of a "scoping process" in January to receive comments about the plan, although many residents weren't aware until the agency hosted a meeting last month. Comments are still accepted at . No expansion plans have been approved.

A second committee, the Aviation and Airports Advisory Board, has heard about the airport expansion since county commissioners in 2000 moved forward to update PBIA's master plan, Pelly said.

Pelly conceded the noise committee should also have been part of the talks.

"I think from our standpoint, we didn't handle that well," he said

Agnew, a senior captain with JetBlue Airways, lives in the airport's flight path in the Vedado neighborhood just east of Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach.

Residents in the community fear a similar fate as that of the old Hillcrest neighborhood just to the north, whose homes were demolished or relocated in the 1980s because of increased airport noise.

Airport representatives insisted they would not push for the same to happen.

"We have absolutely no interest in purchasing another community," said Jerry Allen, deputy director of the county airports department's planning and development division.

He did say airport noise is likely to increase in Vedado with the longer runway.

Projections of more flights at PBIA show increases in delays averaging 20 minutes by 2025, Allen said.

In May 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation told a Senate subcommittee that PBIA had the worst record for late arrivals in the nation during the previous winter.

As considered, the south runway would be extended from 3,210 to 8,000 feet. PBIA's crosswind runway would shrink from 6,932 to 4,000 feet.

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