Baltimore Regional Airport Faces Residents' Opposition
Organized resident opposition to a proposed runway expansion for
the Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster will be balanced
against potential economic benefits as county commissioners
consider a plan for adoption June 12, reports the Baltimore
The latest master plan includes one of four options concerning
the airport runway. One proposal calls for building a new runway
1,300 feet longer and located 250 feet west and 600 feet north of
the current strip, which would allow for larger airplanes. The
current runway is 5,100-feet.
The proposed $74 million runway expansion project would allow
the airport to expand its apron and invite businesses to construct
corporate hangars from which the county would profit; $1.9 million
of the project would come from airport revenue.
The expansion is opposed by area residents concerned about its
impact on property values, safety, and the environment.
Increased noise pollution and safety concerns, say concerned
residents, would compromise their rural quality of life.
Opponents wore yellow squares on their shirts that read in black
letters: "NO airport expansion" at a recent hearing.
If you stop outside Ron Buczkowski's health food store in
Westminster, you would see signs reading "No Airport Expansion" and
"We Say No to Airport Expansion."
Buczkowski is co-chairman of the Carroll Joint Neighborhood
Association, which has gathered signatures from more than 1,000
residents on a petition that asks the county commissioners to slash
the runway expansion as the county updates the 20-year airport
"When most of the residents
moved here, it was a country airport," said Buczkowski, "and it has
become an airport that is much more user-friendly to jet service
now. With increased jet traffic comes more pollution and noise
issues, and ... the airport is surrounded by more and more
Union Bridge resident John D. Witiak was one of the few
residents to speak in support of the airport at the May 30 hearing.
He said the expansion could help widen Carroll's lagging industrial
"It would hopefully take the tax burden off the property owner,"
Witiak said. "Planes and mass transit, not roads, are the things of
Varrone, the county performance auditor who oversaw the airport
until early April, said an expanded runway would bring in only a
few more jet flights each day, while increased traffic and a longer
runway would bring in more fuel sales.
The runway "will have a positive economic impact on the county,"
Varrone said. "It will keep the airport enterprise fund in the
black ... and it will add revenue to the county's general
Demand for the airport's facilities has grown in recent years;
about 100 planes are stored on-site, filling T-hangars and forcing
some to park on the apron. Profitability for four consecutive
fiscal years has brought the airport out of the red and into the
black, officials said.
Officials add that one of the main reasons the airport is
earning money is because of its seven corporate hangars.
And growth isn't only seen on airport grounds.
"The [Westminster Air Business Center] has grown up around the
airport, ... and other business parks continue to develop in that
corridor," said Paige Sunderland, business development manager for
the county Department of Economic Development.
"Some of our companies do utilize the airport for their
corporate aviation needs, so that certainly is an asset to be able
to offer them the airport as an amenity."
The airport also attracts corporate travelers coming from or
going to places outside Carroll County, said Myers.
"There are a lot of the larger
firms flying in and out quite frequently," he said. "It's much more
convenient for them than to fly to BWI or one of the airports
farther away that are much more congested."
The airport serves as a reliever for BWI and features both
corporate and general aviation facilities, services, and support,
including its 5,100-foot runway.
Recent improvements to the airport have included tarmac,
corporate hangars, FBO, a Compass Rose, taxiways, and
And because of its location (Carroll County is northwest of
Baltimore City and borders PA) it is accessible from PA, WV, VA,
DE, MD, the Chesapeake Bay, the Blue Ridge, and Appalachian
Mountains. Because it now serves as a major connecting hub for
numerous eastern destinations, its role increases each year as
passengers, pilots, and cargo carriers pass though the National
Capital and Baltimore Regional areas.
The airport is also appreciated for its distance from government
restrictions. Pilots and airport employees say Carroll County
Regional is convenient because of its location outside the Air
Defense Identification Zone that restricts and regulates air
traffic in the Baltimore-Washington area.
"You can train your students without hassles based on controlled
airspaces," said Peter Rutelli, a WestAir flight instructor.
"We run a tight ship, but at the same time we go out of our way
to provide great service to our customers at the airport," Varrone
said. "We're here to enhance economic development and revenue for
The runway, at its busiest, averages 360 to 414 daily
"operations," according to a 2005 draft of the facility's master
plan. With takeoffs and landings counted separately, the number of
operations can be inflated by flight schools and the occasional
Many of those departures and arrivals stop at one of the
airport's two FBOs. (photo: typical FBO)
WestAir Aviation and American Pilot Services cater to business
travelers and general aviators, and account for an estimated 26 of
about 70 employees who work at - but not for - the airport.
"We provide pilot services of just about every type," said Mark
Myers, director of fixed-base operations for WestAir.
The airport, in turn, serves to better the economy, county
Carroll County Airport has quietly grown from a small farm field
in a community along an old American Indian trail to supporting
wartime military airlifts of troops and supplies to a county-owned
facility recognized by local and state authorities as a vital
regional link for commerce.
Honoring those involved in the revitalization, the airport was
renamed Carroll County Regional Airport, DMW, and later dedicated
to Jack B. Poage, aviator and FBO owner.