Communication a must in airport runway project

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 9, 2014 

For more than two years, Beaufort County has made its plan known to bring the Hilton Head Island Airport up to Federal Aviation Administration standards including a longer, safer runway. The controversial plans have garnered attention from the media and residents, some of whom disagree on whether the work is needed at an airport with a decreasing number of flights.

Thus, we're surprised that nearby property owners were recently caught off guard that their buildings at the Airport Office Park are slated for demolition.

The surprise came in November when the county sent notices to seven businesses near the airport, notifying them of the demolition plans and the airport project, which involves straightening and relocating two taxiways and lengthening the runway to 5,000 feet from the current 4,300 feet. Properties at either end of the runway are too close to the airport and violate federal rules. That means The Deep Well Project, Insty-Prints and neighboring businesses in The Commons on Beach City Road at the north end of the runway must relocate.

County leaders contend initial notifications were made in January 2012. Demolition of the buildings was also discussed previously, during work on the airport master plan, they contend.

Anyone with a property interest near the airport should stay tuned in. Demolition is going to happen at a yet-to-be-determined time, and relocation will be necessary for several businesses. Other changes could pop up, affecting still more businesses.

The county, along with airport officials, must do everything within its power to keep affected business owners apprised of project developments. Some owners say poor communication and the lack of a deadline for land purchases have made it difficult for them to makes plans.

A rough timeline exists. Appraisals are being done now and should be completed in about 90 days, followed by offers to owners in another 60 days, according to the county. Demolition will begin sometime after that.

A consultant team will help owners find comparable properties. Financial assistance from the county will help cover moving costs.

If communication is made a priority -- as it should be -- relocation can happen without a glitch and the long-discussed airport work can finally be realized.

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