LAWRENCEVILLE -- A citizens board will turn to an expert to learn if Gwinnett officials can restrict in any way commercial flights proposed at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville.
During a meeting Wednesday, some committee members said they believed the county could have no say in flights, due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations that preclude officials from restricting hours, number of departures and arrivals and other measures.
But Commissioner Lynette Howard, who is working as a liaison to the group in its pursuit of a recommendation on the airport's future, said she believed the county could limit the size of a building at Briscoe Field that would then limit gates and could also ensure large planes are not used because of limited runway strength and length.
Airport Manager Matt Smith added that he believed the FAA honored any restrictions mutually agreed upon with airlines, such as limited hours or gates.
The matter was enough the leave the members scratching their heads and asking for clarification from an expert.
"I think the people who are proponents (of an airport commercialization proposal) are relying on controls through structure," said Lawrenceville Councilman Tony Powell, a committee member. "The opponents are saying we don't trust that. ... This is the crux of the issue."
Howard had asked the board for recommendations to limit the airport's expansion in a way that would be more palatable to a community concerned about noise, traffic and quality of life issues that passenger service could bring to the small airport.
If the terms aren't agreeable to the operator, Howard said, the county could walk away from the deal.
Using a new format created by commissioners after complaints that the citizens task force was not getting the resources it needs, committee members also asked for an expert on the airline industry.
While Howard wasn't immediately convinced of the need, since extensive economic feasibility studies would be conducted before a contract is signed, board members said the fact that the county would be left continuing operations at the airport if the private operator fails means economic factors are of prime concern.
"If there is no demand, then we set the county up to fail," task force chairman Tip Cape said. "It does have a huge impact on our recommendation to the county."