A committee charged with studying whether Virginia’s James City County should go into the airport business has recommended that the county should build a new airport rather than buy and operate the existing Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport, the Newport News Daily Press reported on May 27.
The Community Airport Committee, formed to determine how important the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport is to the area, made its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on May 26. For more than a year, the committee has been compiling an airport feasibility study of options the county could pursue to provide aviation facilities after the private airport’s owner, Larry Waltrip, retires.
Whether the county chooses to sponsor the existing airport or build a new one, state and federal money is available that could cover up to 98% percent of the cost. The current airport doesn’t meet federal aviation standards, but is exempted because it is privately owned. That would not be the case if the county bought it, so the committee suggested launching a site selection process, the first step toward building a new airstrip.
The estimated cost to build a new airport is $16 million, and it could take anywhere from 10 years to 20 years to find and buy the land, get all the necessary state and federal permits, and build the new airstrip, according to the study. The $16 million doesn’t include hangars and other facilities.
County Administrator Sandy Wanner asked that county staff be given time to digest the lengthy study and return to the board with suggestions. “There’s not a lot of land left in James City County,” he said. “It may turn out that there isn’t any [suitable] land.”
Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport is the base for 77 aircraft which, along with transients, make about 22,000 take-offs and landings a year, according to the study. By 2025, the study predicted the number would rise to more than 30,000 operations.
The airport brought 8,000 visitors to the area in 2007. It also supported 39 jobs that year, paying $936,000 in wages and spurring $2.8 million in sales, according to the study. The Virginia Department of Aviation ranks the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport as having the third-largest economic impact of all general aviation airports in the state.
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