Connecticut Residents Mull Reopening Airport
It's a scene increasingly familiar
at airports across America. This time, it was played out in
Burlington and Harwinton (CT), where some 500 residents showed up
Monday night for an informal little chat about what to do with
Johnnycake Airport. It's an argument that splits both communities
-- and apparently splits the co-owners of the land as well.
"Will I sell 40 to 60 acres?" asked Richard Miller, owner of the
Burlington portion of the field. "Absolutely not. Will this become
a public airport? Not in a million years while I own it. It’s
not going to be a noise generator," he said. "It’s not going
to be an industrial park while I own it. There’s huge
liability issues that I won’t take and I won’t have the
He was quoted in the Torrington Register-Citizen. Miller was
instrumental in shutting down the airport after tenants said they
couldn't come up with a substantial increase in rent. The runway
was closed at the end of March.
Co-owner Fred Pesce didn't speak at the meeting. But his son,
Fred Jr., did. He indicated that the airport didn't used to be a
noisy neighbor, even with a lot of jet traffic.
"They’re up, they’re out and they’re gone," he
But the Register-Citizen reports the crowd seemed to side with
Miller. "I hunt and fish," Ron Leoni of Harwinton said. "I
don’t expect anyone to buy me a rod and reel so I can do my
hobby. I never had anyone come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Ron,
here’s a couple grand toward your rent.’"
"Let us not forget the rights of the property owner," said Ron
Paul of Burlington. "Everyone here is a property owner. Who’s
going to be next?"
"It does seem to benefit a handful of people more than the
multitude," Tony DiSorbo of Burlington said.
The idea of reopening the airport did have its proponents. One
of them was Terrance Zemetis, chairman of the Meriden Airport
Commission for Meriden-Markham Municipal Airport. She said
Johnnycake could provide much-needed relief to bigger, busier
airports in the region. She reportedly mentioned the Young Eagle's
program and Angel Flights. "These are all things that come out of
our little airport that aren’t obvious," she said.
"People who fly airplanes have money," Jay Pratley of Harwinton
said. "This is an asset we need to hang onto."
Both Harwinton and Burlington city leaders want to purchase the
airport (shown above, under construction in 1956) and reopen
it. And they appear to be very conscious of the anti-noise lobby.
"We want to keep it small," said Burlington First Selectman Ted
Scheidel. "We want to keep it the way it was 10 to 15 years