Ultimate decision over length of runway at Naples Municipal Airport may rest with FAA

What: Discussion of the Naples Airport’s master plan at Naples City Council planning board meeting

When: 8:30 a.m. May 12

Where: Naples City Hall, Eighth Street South

Also: Naples City Council will also hold a workshop on May 17 to discuss the proposal. No action will be taken during the workshop.

Naples Airport

500 Terminal Drive, Naples, FL

— Some Naples residents want the proposed runway expansion at Naples Municipal Airport delayed until next season.

But their concerns may not matter because the Federal Aviation Administration may have the final say over the runway’s length, not Naples City Council, the city’s attorney said during a meeting last week.

Concerned residents want Naples City Council to get involved in the airport’s plans to expand the runway’s length to enlarge the safety zones, also known as displaced thresholds.

Seven residents, most of whom live in Aqualane Shores under a flight path, urged the council during a meeting last week to stall the runway expansion.

“I believe that this is not only unneeded but unwanted,” said Alan Parker, president of the Old Naples Association and chairman of the Naples Airport Authority Technical Advisory Committee.

Parker said he heard about the plans to expand the runway in December and saw the details last month.

According to the city’s ordinance, Section 58-691, the maximum distance allowed for the runway is 5,000 feet.

The Naples Airport Authority wants to extend the runway’s safety zones by 510 feet on the south end and 800 feet on the north end. This would increase the declared distance of the runway to 5,800 feet for take-off, but it would remain 5,000 feet for landing.

A recommendation will be given from the planning board to Naples City Council, which has the ability to approve or deny the plan, but council members may not have any authority over the length of the runways, said City Attorney Bob Pritt.

Pritt said the final decision regarding the expansion of the runway will be made by the Federal Aviation Administration.

In this case, Pritt said it’s likely that there is a preemption power over the local ordinance.

Ultimately, Pritt said federal law prevails.

Residents also questioned if the authority is meeting behind closed doors and violating the city ordinance.

“I don’t think that the airport authority has broken any laws ... there certainly has been no secret meetings behind closed doors out of Sunshine (laws),” Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said.

As residents get fired up about the issue, Barnett said the public should wait for the authority to be heard by the council later this month.

“This is not about larger planes or noisy planes,” said Barnett, who also lives in the flight path.

“I do believe that this is a safety issue,” he said.

Adding displaced thresholds is “the single best” opportunity to reduce noise on the community, said Ted Soliday, the airport’s executive director, during a workshop last week.

Soliday said this doesn’t mean that the airport will have more aircraft on one runway.

Naples Airport Authority Commissioner Ernest Linneman added that having paved safety areas would also increase safety.

That extension would, Linneman said, also potentially bring back scheduled commercial airline services.

Soliday said he’s received comments of support from the community, including pilots.

But not everyone agrees.

Community members who live in the flight path said the expansion combined with increased air traffic could mean larger, noisier planes zooming overhead.

“We do not want this airport to get bigger,” Parker said during a recent commission workshop.

Naples residents are also concerned about the authority ignoring the city code declared distance ordinance of 5,000 feet.

“We believed that we were protected by the city ordinance,” Sharon Kenney, the Aqualane Shores association president, said during the workshop. “Today, the (Naples Airport Authority) says they are no longer bound by the ordinance.”

Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/

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