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ANTI-AIRPORT EXPANSION: Gwinnett is great without a larger airport

On April 19, the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners voted to table an ordinance to eliminate consideration of passenger jet service from Briscoe Field and announced a public forum to receive input from residents regarding Briscoe expansion.

Citizens for a Better Gwinnett is a volunteer group concerned about our quality of life. From the beginning, we have provided facts on Briscoe expansion, and we will continue to provide only facts. Local special interest groups say we “only provide emotional rhetoric and fears to the public,” which is very far from the truth.

C4BG was given only eight days, including Easter weekend, to organize and prepare a fact-based presentation supporting our opposition to Briscoe expansion and create awareness among Gwinnett residents at the meeting. We partnered with Citizens for Responsible Government, Founding Fathers Tea Party and the Lawrenceville City Council.

Our presentations covered the negative impact residents may expect on their health, traffic congestion and home values. We presented a demographic comparison of Lawrenceville to South Tucson, home of the Tucson airport, one of the “models” Propeller Investments has said they envision turning Briscoe into. Tucson airport is located on 8,244 acres of sparsely occupied desert six miles from Tucson. Of course we all know Briscoe Field is located on 507 acres, 1.25 miles from downtown Lawrenceville, and has 23,526 homes within a three-mile radius.

We pointed out a 2005 FAA regulation that would require the runway to be lengthened by perhaps 2,000 feet, far longer than the 500 feet proposed by Propeller Investments. We highlighted that if a private company operating Briscoe were to go bankrupt, the FAA could force Gwinnett to continue operations. A risk we don’t want the GBOC to endorse. As well as case law supporting homeowners’ right to seek damages from Gwinnett County in the event noise created by passenger jet service affects home values.

Our analysis suggests the property values in the Lawrenceville area may decline by a total of $900 million, resulting in a $13 million drop in tax revenue. Of course the BOC will be forced to increase taxes on all Gwinnett home owners to offset the loss.

Presentations were based on numerous facts from studies prepared by prestigious universities (Penn State, Illinois, North Carolina) and highly regarded consultants (Booze-Allen, Randall Bell).

Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson expressed her desire to join with the BOC to develop Briscoe as an asset that would service Lawrenceville and Gwinnett. City Councilman Tony Powell spoke of Lawrenceville’s commitment to challenge expansion of Briscoe in court.

In contrast, the proponents of expansion, FlyGwinnettForward, spoke of their feelings, beliefs, dreams and desires. They presented no facts, no studies and no certainties. Brett Smith, managing director of Propeller Investment, was in the audience but did not speak. We can only wonder why. For months we asked Smith and FGF to share their data and studies. To date, they have not responded to our request.

Proponents failed to point out that Gwinnett and the Chamber of Commerce have attracted several new companies in the last few years, which resulted in 5,000 new jobs. None of which required a regional airport.

For years, Gwinnett has been one of the fastest growing counties in the country, known for excellent schools, low taxes, family orientation and outstanding quality of life. On May 3, the BOC will vote to eliminate or pursue expansion of Briscoe Field. If passenger jet service is ultimately approved, this date will mark the beginning of monumental decline for Gwinnett County residents.

Jim Regan is the organizer of Citizens for Better Gwinnett, a group opposed to the expansion of Briscoe Field. For more information, visit www.bettergwinnett.org.