York County Manager Jim Baker lashed out at chief airport critic Scott Ball on Monday, accusing Ball of using deceptive tactics to mislead neighbors.
"I sincerely believe you deserve credit for your perseverance and dedication to your cause," Baker wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, you have compromised your credibility so completely by circulating half-truths and misleading information that any value from (your) commitment has long since been lost or totally undermined. Nearby residents deserved better."
Baker's e-mail represents the strongest rebuke yet toward Ball, a leading opponent of new rules proposed around the Rock Hill/York County Airport. The complete text of Baker's e-mail is posted on heraldonline.com.
Ball, who lives in Stafford Park off the southern end of the runway, hosted a PowerPoint slide show last week at Newkirk Baptist Church. More than 400 neighbors showed up to hear him talk about numbers, airport history and suspicions of Russian fighter jets coming to Rock Hill for flying lessons.
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Ball has carried on testy e-mail exchanges with local officials and maintained a Web site, NoAOD.com, where he keeps neighbors updated on the latest news.
Responding to Baker's criticism late Monday afternoon, Ball said he doesn't try to deceive anyone. He said his Web site is an accurate portrayal of the facts.
"I don't know why he feels the need to focus on my shortcomings, or what he perceives to be my shortcomings, instead of the facts," Ball said. "Frankly, I think it's time that our political figures focus on the fact they need to protect the individuals they have allowed to build homes in the area... and stop trying to focus on me. I'm not the issue here. They are."
Ball, 39, moved to Rock Hill 2 1/2 years ago from Fort Myers, Fla., with his wife and son. He manages a company that installs surfaces on concrete swimming pools. Ball's parents, Jerry and Thelma, also live in Stafford Park.
The Balls and other neighbors are fiercely opposed to a proposal to curb development near the airport and require people buying homes to sign forms acknowledging they're in special noise zones. The rules are tied to plans to lengthen the runway by 1,000 feet to attract more corporate jets. About 1,900 current and planned homes are affected.
Fears are twofold: First, the noise disclosure forms will scare off potential homebuyers, even on streets where jets barely can be heard. Second, more jet traffic will cause more noise for everyone.
Baker: Choice of comparison ill-advised
Among Baker's main objections is that Ball draws comparisons to an airport in Orange County, Calif., which has a 5,700-foot runway of similar length to Rock Hill's facility.
"Of course, what you haven't told anyone is that the airport you are talking about is John Wayne Airport," Baker wrote in the e-mail. "There are actually eleven different commercial airlines that serve this airport and they enplaned nearly 10 million passengers last year. Of course, they had planes like the CRJ-700 departing last week. I'm sure they had even larger planes, as well. Though John Wayne has a very short main runway for a commercial airport, that main runway is wider and has a higher weight capacity than ours."
Ball says he doesn't claim Rock Hill will follow the same path as Orange County, only that it could.
Local officials have said they expect to move forward on the airport proposal in the next two months.