Airport foes remind BOC of concerns



LAWRENCEVILLE — With the special election for Gwinnett County chairman approaching, residents attended the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening to reiterate their continued opposition to the proposed expansion of Briscoe Field.

A decision on the future of the county’s general aviation airport wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda. Commissioners have tabled the issue until the new chairman is elected to fill Charles Bannister’s unexpired term. Bannister resigned in October at the end of a special grand jury investigation to avoid indictment on a perjury charge.

“To us, this is and will remain an active issue until they agree not to bring commercial passenger service to Gwinnett,” said Jim Regan of Citizens for a Better Gwinnett, a group that opposes the proposed expansion.

Regan said members of Citizens for a Better Gwinnett have spoken to the four candidates running for the chairman’s seat, all who have publicly said they oppose the expansion. However, the group’s concern is that the current commissioners would approve the expansion, he said.

Russ Lappana, a real estate agent, said the projected economic benefits from the proposed privatization and expansion have caused some in the community to “jump on the bandwagon.”

But, he argued, any economic benefits would be offset by a decline in property values.

“The decline in property values would cause a decline in property taxes and offset any economic gain this airport can obtain,” Lappana said.

Lawrenceville resident Ron Johnson said he’s afraid commissioners will approve the privatization and expansion without holding a public hearing.

“I’m afraid ... one day we’re going to wake up and we’re going to have commercial jets flying over our heads,” he said. “The thing that scares us is when not a lot of people are here protesting, that’s when the bad things happen.”

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau assured Johnson that if the board decides to move in the direction of privatization, it will be a federal process that mandates extensive public hearings.