Runway expansion approved

Published 9:28 pm Monday, August 23, 2010

The Suffolk Planning Commission gave its stamp of approval Tuesday to new developments at the Hampton Roads Executive Airport.

The commission voted 8-0 for a group of requests required before the runway at the airport, located off U.S. Route 58, can be expanded. The improvements will make the airport straddle the city line, sitting mostly in Chesapeake but partly in Suffolk.

Planners approved a Comprehensive Plan amendment, a rezoning request and a conditional use permit request after plenty of aviators and business people spoke in favor of the measures.

“Improvements make it more business-friendly,” said Randall Burdette, the director of the Virginia Department of Aviation.

About $9.4 million will be spent on the project in the next six years, Burdette said. The improvements include a rehabilitated taxiway, new hangars and runway lights.

Burdette was one of about 60 people at the meeting — an unusually large crowd for a planning meeting. Most in attendance came for the airport issue.

Whitney Saunders, a local attorney working on behalf of Virginia Aviation Associates, LLC, which owns the property, said the runway extension to 5,360 feet would improve its safety. The airport currently has two paved runways and 210 based aircraft, according to its website. It is designated as a reliever airport for Norfolk International Airport.

A variety of business people from Chesapeake and North Suffolk spoke during the public hearing, telling planners that they had located their businesses in the area in part because of the convenience of the airport.

Also at the planning meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of a borrow pit at the intersection of South Quay and Gates roads. The commissioners split on a proposed funeral chapel, voting 5-3 to recommend denial of a conditional use permit. The planners had concerns about adequate parking.

The airport, borrow pit and funeral chapel all will be considered by City Council at its Sept. 15 meeting.