MEADOW LAKE EXPANSION
Securing airport’s future
Development will help privately owned facility continue to have significant role
By SARAH COLWELL THE GAZETTE
A major development at Meadow Lake Airport is moving forward to help secure the future of the privately owned airport from the encroachment of an ever-growing population of eastern El Paso County. Development plans for the roughly 500 acres of vacant farmland next to the airport, which have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division, include: c Replacing one runway. c A second new runway. c New taxiways. c A control tower. c A small terminal. c Two new access roads. c Visitor parking. c Commercial properties. c Maintenance hangars. c More hangars for small private planes. The airport’s main runway will be replaced because the current one does not meet FAA requirements for length, width or ground clearance. The runway will be extended from 6,000 feet to 8,300 feet, widened from 60 feet to 75 feet and moved about 2,500 feet to the south. The second runway will run east to west, perpendicular to the main runway. Commercial properties must be aviation-related and will be leased to the developers by the airport. Details of the lease agreements and developers for the project have not been determined, according to the Meadow Lake Association board, a volunteer panel that represents the 200 members that own the airport. The airport started the
project three years ago when it acquired the 500 acres, wanting to secure its position in the area as residential developments encroached on the airport. Developing the land will further cement the airport’s importance to the area and generate an income for the airport to supplement membership fees, said Jack Dhooghe, Meadow Lake Association board president. The expansion also is necessary to better accommodate the growth in the general aviation industry. In the past eight years, the number of aircraft based at Meadow Lake Airport has grown from 290 to 440, according to John Sweeney, aviation planner with CDOT Aeronautics Division. Recently, William Guman & Associates, lead land planner of the project, submitted a master plan to rezone the 500 acres to the El Paso County planning department. Last week, the company sent a letter to neighboring residents to notify them of the development. It plans to have an informal meeting with neighbors before the development’s first public hearing, which is still months away, said company president Bill Guman. The development is at least seven years from starting, according to the Meadow Lake Airport Association. Final approval for much of the development will be based on demand, said Jim Sirhall, project manager from the Airport Development Group. The cost of the expansion has not been determined. The airport does not have the money yet, but it is likely to receive much of the funding from the FAA. Any FAA funds the association receives will first be used to repay a $3.5 million loan it took out with the state Aeronautic Division three years ago to purchase the 500 acres, Dhooghe said. Meadow Lake, although a private airport, is eligible for public funds because it is a reliever airport for Colorado Springs Airport and takes some of the Springs airport’s general aviation traffic — small jets and turbo-prop planes. The FAA is committed to funding the project, but funding is dependent on congressional approval each year, said Mike Fergus, FAA spokesman. An FAA approval of the plan and commitment to fund the project is a positive indicator for the airport, because it ensures Meadow Lake will be around for a long time. “It’s a good thing for us, because it keeps the developers from trying to shut the airport down,” Dhooghe said. The association does not expect any negative impact to neighboring properties, because aircraft flight patterns will remain the same, said Lee Wolford, vice president of the airport association. The association, as a private entity, does not have the right nor the intent to use eminent domain to acquire any surrounding properties, Wolford said. The association does expect the development to increase general aviation traffic and income for the airport and the surrounding area. The exact numbers are unknown. There are about 59,000 takeoffs and landings at Meadow Lake a year, according to a 2004 FAA study, which is about a third of all air traffic at Colorado Springs Airport. The airport generates 301 jobs, $11.32 million in wages and $29.45 million in economic activity to the area, according to a 2002 study by the CDOT Aeronautics Division. “We want to develop the airport with outside interests who will lease the land from the airport to help the airport grow and produce an income for the airport to operate,” Dhooghe said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4893 or firstname.lastname@example.org
HUNTER McRAE, THE GAZETTE - Hank Bartlett checked the weather Friday by listening to the radio on his 1978 Piper Tomahawk at Meadow Lake Airport. Work planned for the private airport includes improved runways and commercial properties. Work on the development will begin in seven to 10 years.