Pilots, Advocates Decry Unusual Move
"Hiring an arsonist as
fire chief would surprise me less." That's how Palm Bay, FL city
councilman -- and former Valkaria Airport board chairman -- Milo
Zonka summarized the recent appointment of a longtime airport
critic to the Valkaria Airport advisory board.
Florida Today reports Brevard County Commissioner Chuck Nelson
appointed Janis Walters to the airport commission... despite her
apparent opposition to the airport's very existence. While the move
pleased airport neighbors, it left supporters aghast.
"She's so anti-airport, it's frightening," said pilot and
11-year board member Dr. Russell Minton. The sentiment was echoed
by fellow Commissioner Helen Voltz, who called the appointment a
disaster at last Thursday's meeting.
As ANN reported, a master
plan for Valkaria Airport (X59) finally won approval last August,
after months of disagreement between airport supporters and
critics. Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the plan, which
includes repaving two runways at the airport, building a new
parallel taxiway, and adding hangars for up to 100 planes, among
other much-needed changes.
Walters, along with associate Curt Lorenc, has battled against
the commission for years. Most recently, she fought vehemently
against the master plan, stating the improvements would lead to
more, and larger, aircraft using the facility.
Nelson attempted to downplay the criticism of his decision,
saying his experience working with Walters, going back to the
1990s, has only been positive. He said he views Walters as a
detail-oriented person, who asks valid questions.
"She'll be a good addition in watching as the process evolves,"
Walters notes she served on the board before, and knows what the
job requires. "My opinions as an individual are quite different
from my function on the advisory board," she said, adding she
supports Valkaria's use as "a small recreational facility."
Several residents have complained the airport board has been
dominated in recent years by pilots and aviation advocates. Board
member Don Darby believes Walters will bring a balance to the
often-contentious board, and will represent community
"I am positive about her appointment," he said. "We've gone for
so long with very little voice on the board, that it's good to have
more representation for the community."