New Garden reaffirms dedication to airport expansion

Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel: Spectators lining the runway watch as an SNJ/T-6 takes off for some formation flying at the annual New Garden Festival of Flight, held at the New Garden Flying Field last weekend.

New Garden Township will move ahead with development plans for the airport, without going overboard

According to board member Bob Norris, at a meeting held last week, the consensus among the board was to continue on with the original goals of developing portions of the airport property on Newark Road into a business park.

“The main question was, how much?” Norris said. “Do we want to maximize that development potential, or just go with a smaller business park?”

The original development master plan of the roughly 200-acre New Garden Flying Field property called for the township to sell off 40 acres to cover the cost of the purchase of the airport, with an additional 70 acres to be developed and leased.

Norris said Wednesday’s meeting was to basically reaffirm the new board’s commitment to the project, and the level of dedication the current board has to the project.

“The goal long-term when we purchased the airport was for it to be a self-sustaining entity, so some development is appropriate,” he said. “So we’re not maximizing it and we’re not keeping it all as open space either.”

Norris said the board seemed to agree that anywhere between four and seven parcels was an appropriate number for the leased properties, originally envisioned as ones that would support the aviation industry.

The airport recently completed work on extending the taxiway and has also received a grant of $56,250 to rehabilitate the hangar aprons from Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2013 State Transportation program.

Funding for the $3.7 million in grants, provided by PennDOT’s aviation development program, comes from the state’s jet fuel tax and leverages more than $1.2 million in local matching funds.

New Garden joins 18 other airports from throughout the state that received funding for what Corbett’s office said are projects to enhance operations and to support increasing business needs, according to a press release.

“Transportation is an economic driver, and Pennsylvania’s aviation industry plays a major role in delivering good-paying jobs and connections for commerce,” Corbett said. “We continue to invest in airport improvement projects because they help meet business demands and support the jobs that rely on these facilities.”

Norris said the next step for the airport is hangar development, scheduled for next spring, and the ongoing runway renovation, which hinges on reimbursement from the state.

“The cost for that project stands at roughly $3 million, and when it comes to the state and the FAA, we generally receive back 95 percent of funding for projects,” he said.

He added that the state had recently approved the master plans as submitted, just the first step in a three-step process towards approval.

The project would expand the width of the runway by 10 feet to better accommodate traffic and planes of varying sizes.

The goal, Norris said, is to improve and rebuild much of the runway over the next three years.

Regarding the rest of the development goals, Norris said that much of it obviously depends on economic factors and who is willing to make the investment.

“The airport has to be ready in either case, and the infrastructure has to be in place,” he said. “But the airport has massive potential as a source of revenue, for the township and for the school district with regards to commercial tax income.”