Published: Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Cuyahoga County Airport nixing plans for runway
By Cassandra Shofar
A nearly four-year battle among three cities and an airport has come to an end.
Cuyahoga County Airport officials have decided not to pursue a 900-foot runway expansion, which would have brought the runway to 6,002 feet. The expansion was a part of the airport's master plan and would require that Bishop and Richmond roads be rerouted.
Instead, the airport has agreed to add Alternative 23 as its future alternative, which will expand the runway and address safety concerns within the existing footprint, Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger said.
Officials from Willoughby Hills, Richmond Heights and Highland Heights voiced concerns over the last 31⁄2 years about the original expansion plans. Those concerns have included increased air traffic, noise, pollution and larger aircraft, as well as decreased safety, home values and standards of living.
"We've always been concerned about the safety of our residents, but we also wanted to preserve the values of their homes, so that's why we fought this for almost four years," Weger said.
He explained that the new plan is a win-win for the communities and the airport because it allows the airport to maintain the same size aircraft that are there today. He also said the plan addresses any safety features needed while keeping both roads intact and moving the runway 150 feet away from Willoughby Hills.
"I think it's a great victory for all of the residents in each of the surrounding cities," Willoughby Hills City Council President Kevin Malecek said. "It's a testament to them writing letters, attending meetings and voicing their concerns these last 31⁄2 years."
He said the airport will make necessary safety improvements and enhancements, which is something all three cities desired. But the alternative also will maintain the integrity of the roadways.
"It's something that we've just spent so many hours on, here and in Washington with so many government officials," Malecek said. "It's so nice to see that the force made by both the residents in the communities and the government officials have been rewarded in this situation."
Councilman Ray Somich said westward expansion of the airport has been a major concern for many residents for many years and it has been a priority of the council and administration to fight expansion and have the airport officials reverse their decisions.
"Yet, we have wanted and are appreciative that we will see the safety upgrades for all who use and live around the airport," he said. "We will continue to fight all unnecessary airport expansion to make sure our people can enjoy and value their homes and properties."
Airport officials said Alternative 23 meets the airport's current needs based on conversations with its consultants, C&S Engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration and airport tenants.
On average, the airport has between 38,000 to 40,000 operations per year, which include takeoffs and landings, Cuyahoga County Airport Manager Kevin Delaney said. He added that the corporate mix of that is about 8,000 to 10,000 operations per year.
"According to the forecasting that was provided in the airport master plan at the time, it indicated we'd (eventually) do 82,000 annual operations," Delaney said, explaining why the 900-foot expansion originally was discussed.
"At the time when that forecast was made in 2005, we had an annual operations of 60,000," he said. "The loss in traffic is due to the economic climate we've been in. (The projections) may not be that accurate at all, to be honest, at this point."
Alternative 23 will realign the perimeter fence along Richmond Road and add EMAS (engineered materials arresting system) to assist the airport in having a modern runway and meet the runway safety area standards, Delaney said.
He added, "And we feel that more importantly, to the residents and the community, it means no road relocation. We were familiar with what the residents in the community were concerned about."
The airport will need to seek easements over some properties for airspace control above a certain level to prevent trees growing into airspace, Delaney explained.
Alternative 23, which was approved by Cuyahoga County commissioners July 15, will convert the overrun, which is roughly 400 feet, into usable runway, maximizing the runway length to 5,500 feet for takeoff while remaining within the existing confines of the airport, Delaney said.
"It basically slides the runway about 400 to 500 feet toward Richmond Road," he said. He added that the original plan for expansion will still be in the master plan, but for airspace preservation only.
"We currently have no future plans to extend the runway to 6,000 feet," he said.
Malecek said he thinks several factors weighed into the airport's decision to change plans.
"It was the tremendous public outpouring of concern," he said. "I think it was the attention of all the elected officials in the surrounding communities, the legal opportunities available. It is just a combination of factors that results in their decision."
Weger said along with meeting with the FAA, government officials, making a lot of records requests from the airport and all three cities passing an ordinance asserting their right to keep the roads as they exist, Willoughby Hills also threatened to file a lawsuit, citing a similar case, Village of Blue Ash v. City ofCincinnati, which the city won.
"It's against the Constitution of the U.S. to mandate us to move those roads," Weger said.
While the airport agreed to stay within its current footprint, it will continue to make infrastructure upgrades such as rehabilitating and reconstructing existing taxiways/aprons. It also will begin to focus on improving the runway safety areas by making incremental gains as well as preparing for runway rehabilitation/reconstruction, Delaney said.
The original estimated cost for Alternative 23 was $20 million, Delaney said. However, he added that could change by the time it takes place. It could be less because of upgrades and improvements made now.
"These are all tentative (dates, costs)," he said. "It all depends on funding. We still have to do an environmental assessment. There are plenty of things that could delay this. But our main concern is obviously correcting our runway safety areas, even if that means incrementally."
Published: Friday, June 18, 2010
Noise abatement plan OK'd for Cuyahoga County Airport
By Cassandra Shofar, News Herald Reporter
It’s been in the making for quite some time, but a voluntary noise abatement policy has finally been put into place at the Cuyahoga County Airport.
Cuyahoga County commissioners approved a joint statement issuing a voluntary noise abatement procedure this week. The policy was approved and signed by officials in the cities of Richmond Heights, Highland Heights and Willoughby Hills, where the airport is situated; the airport administration and air traffic control facility; the Federal Aviation Administration; and airport tenants and users, said Michelle Adams, public information officer for the Cuyahoga County Department of Development, in a news release.
“The statement is a voluntary commitment made by each of the users to make an effort to follow the adopted procedures,” Adams said.
She added that these procedures include discouraging the use of the airport between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. except in emergencies or special circumstances; encourage discontinuing maintenance run-ups between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., as well as implementing procedures to better respond to the residents in the surrounding communities.
“It’s just a voluntary thing, but it makes everybody feel better that they’re trying to keep things quiet,” said Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger. “Again, we understand that it’s totally voluntary ... if they need to land a plane, they need to land a plane. But as far as scheduled things, they’ll try to do it in the time limits that we’ve all agreed upon.”
The statement outlines 13 bullet points as part of the conditions, procedures and policies approved by the Noise Abatement Council, which was formed roughly a year ago and is chaired by Willoughby Hills Councilman David Reichelt, Weger said.
Adams said the statement also includes detailed departure, approach and landing procedures, as well as noise abatement procedures of the National Business Aviation Association Noise Abatement program for jet aircraft.
“(Reichelt) has been pushing for this for quite some time, to get the voluntary noise abatement written. It’s a collaborative effort between the three cities and the airport itself,” Weger said, adding they’ve had one in place before.
That policy was issued in 1995, according to Department of Development.
For more information on the County Airport, go to http://development.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/county-airport.aspx.
To view or download a copy of the voluntary noise abatement procedures and policies, (click here)
Willoughby Hills meets F.A.A. Officials in Washington, DC, again
Mayor Weger, Law Director Lobe, City Engineer Iafelice, and City Council members traveled, at their own expense, to Washington, D.C. on June 11th to meet with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and Congressman Steve LaTourette to get an update on the status of the proposed expansion of the Cuyahoga County Airport.
The F.A.A. officials indicated that the application is currently being reviewed and will be returned to the airport officials in the future. After that, the environmental assessment process will commence. The assessment will include noise studies, an evaluation of socioeconomic impact to the region (including the residents), and forums at which the F.A.A. will solicit public input. At that time, the City will encourage residents to voice their opinion directly to the F.A.A. officials conducting the study.
As soon as the dates of these forums are known, they will be announced on this website.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Burke Lakefront Airport has opportunity to soar
By Anthony J. Coyne
Clevelanders should not consider grounding Burke Lakefront Airport before it is given an opportunity to take off. Recent articles and editorials have argued that the city of Cleveland and those charged with planning its future development have ignored the role and potential of Burke, possible alternative uses of its 450 acres and the transportation network surrounding it. Not so.
read more - click here to view entire article
Cuyahoga County Airport will limit times of
flights to reduce noise issues
By Faith Hampton, Sun News
The Cuyahoga County Airport Noise Abatement Council is coming very close to passing a joint statement.
The joint statement is between the three municipalities — Richmond Heights, Highland Heights and Willoughby Hills — who have the most noise complaints coming in to the airport, the airport control tower, airport tenants and the airport administration.
The joint statement outlines the voluntary noise abatement procedures and policies discussed amongst the council.
The statement says everyone involved will do everything in their power to operate aircraft between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The statement also says a voluntary airport-use application will be initiated and monitored, requesting all general aviation aircraft not schedule take-offs or landings at the airport between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless justified as an emergency.
According to Cuyahoga County Airport Manager Kevin Delaney, the reason the application is “voluntary” is because the airport can not be shut down due to the noise and must remain open.
The joint statement has already been approved by the Noise Abatement council. The next step is to get the mayors of all three municipalities to sign off on the statement, which will then be turned over to the Board of County Commissioners.
Delaney said he thinks the process should take about 3-4 more weeks after the signatures from the mayors have been attained.
“(The joint statement) makes the airport tenants aware of the Noise Abatement council and it’s procedures. The airport’s prospective is to get information to the pilots and put up displays around the airport,” Delaney said.
At the last Noise Abatement council meeting March 31, the 2010 first quarter complaints were examined.
According to Delaney, there have been 7,028 operations from Jan. 1-March 29. The airport has received eight noise complaints for the first quarter. Four noise complaints were between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. and three were between the voluntary hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
One of the complaints was a public records request, which is usually a question about noise or environmental issues.
Delaney said the airport receives an average of 80 complaints a year, which have been a fairly steady progression over the years.
The council discussed encouraging residents to view the airport’s Web site to learn more about what the council is doing and what progress has been made. The Web site allows residents to view all the agendas and minutes of the council meetings.
The council also spoke of creating print materials outlining the progress the council has made with noise complaints, which will hopefully be created in the near future.
Willoughby Hills meets F.A.A. Officials in Washington, DC, again.
Once again, the Mayor, Law Director, and City Council members traveled, at their own expense, toWashington, D.C. on May 15th, 2009 to meet with officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and Congressman Steve LaTourette about the proposed expansion of the Cuyahoga County Airport. This year, officials from Highland Heights, Mayfield Village, and Richmond Heights joined our City officials at the meeting to express their opposition directly to the F.A.A. representatives.
The F.A.A. is now in receipt of the proposed Master Plan submitted by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners and they confirmed that the review process is currently underway. In the coming months, they will commence the environmental assessment process. Despite the name, which sounds like it is strictly related to the environment, the assessment actually includes noise studies, an evaluation of socioeconomic impact to the region (including the residents), and forums at which the F.A.A will solicit public input. At that time, the City will encourage residents to voice their opinion directly to the F.A.A. officials conducting the study.
To view or download the minutes from this meeting, click here
AIRPORT ISSUE UPDATE
A meeting of the Ad-Hoc Committee against any and all expansion of the Cuyahoga County Airport, chaired by Councilman Chris Biro, was held at the Willoughby Hills Community Center on Monday May 4, 2009. The meeting featured a presentation that outlined the history, current status, and some future plans regarding the airport expansion issue. To download this presentation, click here.
The presentation was followed by open public comments and an announcement of the formation of a coalition initially consisting of the cities of Highland Heights, Richmond Heights, and Willoughby Hills. The three cities have agreed, in principal, to work together, pooling resources, (i.e. legal, financial, professional expertise, etc.) to fight airport expansion.
The Mayor and some members of City Council will be traveling to Washington, D.C. for an annual conference during which they plan to meet with officials of the F.A.A. on May 15th. Although the meeting is open to the public, anyone interested in attending must register in advance by contacting the Mayor's office no later than May 13th.
To view or download a memo from Attorney David Zoll regarding the above, click here
AIRPORT MASTER PLAN MOVED TO NEXT STEP
At their 2/12/09 meeting, the CUYAHOGA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS voted to adopt the current draft of the Airport Master Plan and forwarded same to the F.A.A. for formal processing, despite the numerous public comments made by citizens and elected officials from Willoughby Hills, Highland Heights, and Richmond Heights. This action begins the next phase in the approval process, during which the Federal Aviation Administration will commence a formal analysis of the plan including noise and environmental impact studies. Officials from the city remain committed to the opposition of runway expansion and will continue to follow the Master Plan process as it unfolds.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Airport master plan OK’d
By Michael C. Butz
After hearing opposing viewpoints from officials and residents of Willoughby Hills and Richmond Heights, the Cuyahoga County commissioners unanimously voted to approve the county airport’s master plan at their meeting.
Officially, the commissioners on Thursday granted permission to the county Department of Development to submit a master plan, airport layout plan and runway safety area study for Cuyahoga County Airport, in Richmond Heights, to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Of those plans, perhaps the biggest sticking point for opponents is the proposal to extend the airport’s runway by 900 feet — to 6,002 feet total — which some fear will bring increased air traffic, pollution and noise as well as decreased home values and qualities of life to those in neighboring cities, which also includes Highland Heights.
“We’re going to continue fighting this as it moves into the next stage,” said Kevin Malecek, Willoughby Hills City Council president. “We’ll be there every step of the way, as we have been since the beginning.”
That next step will include an environmental assessment of the airport property. Should everything in the $31.2 million plan come to fruition, construction wouldn’t start for about seven years, and the overall process may take as long as 10 years.
“I’m pleased the commissioners approved it but recognize there’s a long road ahead of us,” Cuyahoga County Airport Manager Kevin Delaney said. “From our perspective, it’s a step in the right direction.”
The airport master plan was up for a vote last April and busloads of area residents attended a meeting to voice their opposition. The commissioners then tabled the measure, allowing time to discuss a sale of the airport to the affected cities, effectively allowing them to control its future.
Shortly before casting his vote, Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones noted that approving the master plan wouldn’t necessarily close the door on talks of that nature, and might in fact add “more urgency” to such discussions.
“The arguments that have been made by opponents to Alternative 38 have been expressed eloquently,” Jones said. “But when all is said and done, what compels me to make the vote I’m going to make is that by acting today, we don’t preclude further discussion and we don’t preclude further debate.”
Paul Oyaski, director of the department of development, which oversees the airport, agreed.
“We can still negotiate a sale after Alternative 38 is approved if there’s a serious buyer,” said Oyaski, referring to the alternative that, in addition to extending the runway, would also reroute nearby portions of Richmond and Bishop roads as well as add landing safety measures and noise-reduction features.
Thus far, “no local government has come forward with a serious proposal to purchase the airport,” said Oyaski, indicating the county identified only one entity with the financial wherewithal and debt capacity to purchase the airport — Lake County.
But Lake County commissioners have indicated they had no interest in purchasing the airport.
However, during the public comment portion of the meeting, Willoughby Hills officials said they never received a response regarding a letter they sent to the Cuyahoga commissioners in April requesting more information surrounding a possible sale.
“I was under the impression there would be an open dialogue, but that dialogue never occurred,” Willoughby Hills City Councilman David Reichelt said. “I’m profoundly disappointed.”
Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger said he received a call from a county official Wednesday evening offering to sell the airport to his city for $100 million.
“Where did that figure come from? A private company couldn’t even make that kind of commitment without background information,” Weger said. “We don’t understand how the commissioners can authorize somebody to make an offer like that without due diligence.”
Also voicing opposition to the plan was Richmond Heights City Council President David Roche and Willoughby Hills City Councilmen Ray Somich and David Fiebig, the latter of whom referenced letters of opposition from state Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chester Township, and state Rep. Lorraine Fende, D-Willowick.
Three people, all of whom have operations at the county airport, spoke in favor of the plan to extend the runway. Each indicated the changes would allow them to take longer flights, take more flights and make safer landings.
Oyaski agreed. However, he said that even with the commissioners’ approval of the plan, there’s still no guarantee the project will take off.
“We cannot say with any degree of certainty today that the FAA will provide the $25 (million) to $30 million necessary for the project,” he said.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Airport plan back on agenda
By Michael C. Butz, News Herald Reporter
Nearly a year has passed since the Cuyahoga County Commissioners last considered approving the county airport's proposed master plan, but when they meet this week, the item will be back on the agenda.
The master plan, which includes plans to extend Cuyahoga County Airport's runway by 900 feet and to reroute Richmond and Bishop roads, is expected to receive a vote at the meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the commissioners' chambers in downtown Cleveland.
"We are still as determined as ever, nothing has changed as far as we're concerned," said Willoughby Hills City Councilman Ray Somich, who plans to attend the meeting with other city officials. "It's still a bad idea as far as Willoughby Hills is concerned. ... We're still fighting this in every conceivable way."
At their April 24 meeting, commissioners voted to table the master plan following strong, vocal objections from busloads of residents from Richmond Heights, where the airport is located, as well as nearby Highland Heights and Willoughby Hills.
Several elected officials also spoke, joining their residents in expressing concerns that extending the runway would lead to bigger planes and more air traffic, and thus more noise and pollution, as well as decreased property values and quality of life.
In tabling the measure, the commissioners suggested the board meet with public officials to discuss selling the airport to those cities so they could control its future.
No such meetings took place, said Somich, adding that a letter sent to the commissioners by the city asking for more details on a possible sale never received a reply.
Cuyahoga County Administrator James McCafferty, who wasn't the administrator during that April 2008 meeting, said the commissioners indicated to him that they received no interest in buying the airport from any of the three cities.
Also, McCafferty said he's unaware of the letter Somich said the city sent, but added it's not too late for the commissioners to consider it should it be resent.
"It's quite curious after all these months of inactivity and lack of communication that it's back on the agenda," Somich said. "If (the commissioners) do attempt to pass it at this point, I think that would be a flagrant abuse of power, and we'll make that known on site and do everything we can to prevent that action from taking place."
When an item gets placed on the agenda is up to the commissioners, explained Cuyahoga County Airport Manager Kevin Delaney, who suggested the delay in voting on the master plan probably was a result of the commissioners' busy schedule, which has included the proposed medical mart and convention center.
One of the county airport's main tenants, Flight Options, has in recent months laid off about 180 pilots and maintenance workers because of decreased luxury and business travel by its customers. However, Delaney said that though recreational use has gone down, meeting the needs of the airport's corporate customers should lead to the master plan's approval on Thursday.
"I expect it to be approved by the Board of Commissioners, which would allow us to submit a draft report to the Federal Aviation Administration's board of review," Delaney said. "This is one of many steps."
If approved by the commissioners and later the FAA, the $31.2 million project would involve extending the runway at the airport to a total of 6,002 feet and rerouting Richmond and Bishop roads around the southwest and northeast ends of the runway, respectively.
The affected stretch of Richmond Road would be completely in Richmond Heights, while the affected portion of Bishop Road would be split between Willoughby Hills and Highland Heights. Though the plan wouldn't require any residential land to be acquired, as many as 20 parcels of land and 44 acres still might be affected, according to previous reports.
Should the FAA eventually approve the plan, the environmental assessment phase would then begin, after which noise abatement and private property issues could be addressed in detail. Construction wouldn't likely begin for several years because the project is dependent upon federal funding to defray most of the costs, and previously released airport documents indicate it's "highly unlikely" the county would proceed with the plan without "substantial" FAA funding.
All meetings take place at the Board of Cuyahoga County Commissioners' Chambers at 1219 Ontario St., 4th Floor, Cleveland.
SENATOR GRENDELL WEIGHS IN
Upon learning of the latest resurrection of the Airport Master Plan issue, Senator Tim Grendell sent a letter to the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. Click here to view this letter
AIRPORT MASTER PLAN ISSUE RETURNS TO AGENDA
With only three days notice, Cuyahoga County Officials informed the City that the Airport Master Plan Issue would be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the CUYAHOGA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS on 2/12/09. Several City Officials plan to attend, despite the short notice.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Wednesday, November 25, 2008
Flight Options lays off 134 as demand for joint jet ownership lags
Flight Options, a fractional jet ownership company, has laid off 104 pilots and 30 other employees because the "working wealthy" and affluent vacationers are less interested in the services.
The downsizing will leave Flight Options with 390 active pilots. The company is headquartered at Cuyahoga County Airport but flies out of airports across the country.
Flight Options will pay the laid off workers through December and provide them medical, dental and vision coverage through January.
"It is our 100 percent goal, very enthusiastic goal, to bring everybody back," Chief Executive Office Mike Silvestro said.
November is the start of the high season for the shared jet ownership industry. Corporate executives and families flying to the Colorado ski slopes or Caribbean beaches use private jets rather than deal with jam-packed airports.
But the business is suffering with the economic downturn -- off 30 percent to 40 percent from a year ago, Silvestro said.
A handful of the affected pilots, as well as the operations workers -- customer service and airport control center employees -- are based locally, he said.
The pilot layoffs were done by seniority, unlike the furloughing of 70 pilots in May, said Mat Slingoff, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1108.
Local 1108 challenged the earlier reduction, contending that Flight Options had targeted union activists and people with high medical costs. The company said it considered productivity and reliability.
Relations between the two sides improved with a management shakeup this summer that returned Flight Options founder Kenn Ricci to the company as chairman.
Flight Options reinstated the 70 pilots before the sluggish economy triggered the latest cuts.
Alison Grant/Plain Dealer Reporter
The News Herald
Thursday, May 29, 2008
WH Mayor calls out Flight Options
Weger challenges the company’s commitment to area after massive job cuts
By Brandon C. Baker, News Herald Reporter
Through previous meeting appearances and comments, Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger let it be known that he is concerned with the neighboring Cuyahoga County Airport’s future and how it affects his residents.
He has opposed a plan to expand the airport’s runway, and on Wednesday the mayor took one of its major tenants to task regarding several job cuts.
Flight Options, L.L.C., a luxury jet and fractional ownership firm with headquarters at the airport, announced on Tuesday that it had terminated several workers, but declined specifically. Weger said he believes the number to be 75 workers at the Richmond Heights headquarters and about 200 nationwide. As a company owned by venture capital firms in Cleveland and Florida, Weger questioned whether the company’s leadership still had a commitment to the area after the cuts. “What’s their commitment to the whole area?” Weger said. It was really proven by this move that there is no commitment and stability there.”
Flight Options spokesman Dennis Baker said the company closed its maintenance operations at the airport and will focus on that sector at its locations in Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, Fla., andTeterboro, N.J. Baker said the headquarters now mostly consists of the company’s support personnel. Baker said there are no plans to move the company elsewhere, but said the offices no longer had to be at an airport and could operate from anywhere.
Richmond Heights Finance Director Lynda Rossiter said it’s too soon for the city to know the sort of impact Flight Options’ decision would have on the community.
She said the company is the city’s top income tax provider. She cited the Ohio Revised Code and Internal Revenue Service regulations as reasons why she could not reveal what percentage of income tax Flight Options provides.
“We can’t ascertain the impact to the city yet because we don’t know the level of the people that they’re terminating.” Rossiter said. “We don’t know whether they’re part-time, full-time, managers, the lowest paid… we don’t know that yet.”
Rossiter said the city would have to watch expenditures for the remainder of the year because other businesses could begin to feel the brunt of energy and oil prices.
Flight Options’ statement released Tuesday blamed the nation’s economic conditions for the firings. Baker said demand for private jet services had declined, creating a need to scale back business.
“We’re focused on maintaining the company’s health through this economic downturn.” Baker said. “We want to emerge from the downturn poised for growth.”
Richmond Heights Mayor Daniel J. Ursu did not seem surprised by the announcement. He remained hopeful that the cuts were not permanent.
“At some point in time, when the pressure on oil prices subsides, their business plan would once again return to what it once was.” Ursu said. “One would think that, at that time, these positions that have been laid off would be resumed. We hope for that.”