Town Eyes Moving Or Closing Queen City Airport
The potential for more tax revenue
appears to be driving the city of Allentown (PA) toward
redeveloping Queen City Airport -- much to the alarm of local
pilots. The city says, however, that the 208 acres of airport
property is being "held hostage" by GA pilots who base there and
are now looking at moving the airport to another site.
"The process is continuing," said Community and Economic
Development Director Ed Pawlowski. "We're looking at many suitable
The city council met last week to consider some of the ideas,
but barred pilots from speaking.
"This is not a meeting for public debate," said Pawlowski.
"There will be plenty of time for public debate."
Right now, about 75 GA aircraft are based at Queen City.
Combined with transient traffic, they conduct about 64,000
operations a year -- not enough, in Pawlowski's opinion, to warrant
continued city ownership of the airport land.
The Allentown Morning Call reports the city, along with the FAA
and the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, agreed four years ago
to search for sites where the airport might be relocated. The
agreement ends this year and that deadline appears to have spurred
Allentown city leaders to action.
Under the pact, advocates of moving the airport have until
December 1st to come up with an alternate location. But the new
airport must not be located beneath airspace now occupied by Lehigh
Valley International in Hanover Township (PA).
It's a 20-year old quest on the part of Allentown's economic
honchos, who can't bear to see the 208-acre airport site go unused.
They figure they could add $11 million in property taxes could be
derived by moving the airport. That money would go to both Lehigh
County and its school district. They also figure Allentown would
see an additional $4.5 million in tax revenues from commercializing
the airport site.
A local developer is studying alternative sites at no cost to
the city. But Pawlowski sent a letter to the airport authority last
year, suggesting Queen City be completely shut down and Lehigh
Valley International be expanded to include a third runway.
"Development of a parallel runway north of Race Street would
leave the airport with a wealth of opportunities for the
development of general aviation facilities," according to the
Lehigh Valley Regional Aviation System Plan.
But that same report says, even with a third runway, GA activity
in Lehigh County would have to be reduced by up to 20-percent in
order to maintain FAA standards through the next ten years.
Pilots, who have submitted their own white paper to the city
council, say Allentown is playing with fire. "This is a great asset
for the city if they would just leave it alone," said Rae Klahr,
president of the Queen City Action Committee. "It's really an