Says Developers Would Be Destroying "Valuable Community
Developers in Georgia want to close
Pine Mountain's Callaway Gardens-Harris County Airport (PIM) to
build a five-story hotel addition to the existing Callaway Gardens
resort. But AOPA has told county commissioners that they would be
in legal trouble with the federal government and would be
destroying a valuable community asset if they cave in to the
"What makes the Callaway Foundation proposal to close PIM almost
surreal is that dozens of other communities, particularly those
reliant on tourism, are literally competing to attract an 'on site'
airport," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional
affairs. "For the county to consider destroying a 5,000-foot runway
literally within three-wood distance of a world-class golf resort
defies all economic logic."
It also would expose the county to federal action. That's
because the county has accepted federal grants to improve the
publicly owned airport. PIM is also a protected airport under the
congressionally approved National Plan of Integrated Airport
In his letter to the Harris County commissioners, AOPA's Cohen
also challenged distortions of the facts concerning the
"The Callaway Foundation severely underestimated and
misrepresented by a factor greater than 700 percent the number of
annual operations at the airport," Cohen wrote. And while the
developers told the county that they could repay the federal
grants, AOPA set the record straight. "Federal grants to airports
are not 'loans' that can be repaid," Cohen said. "When a sponsor
accepts these taxpayer funds, generated by the users of airports
like Pine Mountain, the sponsor is also accepting the requisite
obligations, which include keeping the airport open.
"Repaying the money is not an option," Cohen said. "The FAA has
never allowed any sponsor or entity to repay grant money with the
sole intent of closing an airport."
And he told the commissioners to examine the plus side of the
economic ledger. "Consider just the existing marketing potential
the airport represents in a county of some 25,000 residents," he
said. "PIM lies right in the middle of more than 50,000 AOPA-member
pilots in Georgia and two neighboring states. Many of those members
play golf. All of them want to fly their airplanes as close as
possible to where they live, recreate, and visit. They want to fly
to an airport — one just like PIM."