To the Contrary

Homeowners couldn't foresee airport plans

York County Councilman Rick Lee recently made the following statement: "It's like people who buy homes around the farms and then complain about the chickens."

Mr. Lee makes an analogy between the Rock Hill/York County Airport and a chicken farm. However, it is one thing to purchase a home in a location where a neighbor has a few chickens in his backyard. It is quite another if the neighbor then sells that land to a poultry mega-farm with hundreds of thousands of birds kept in huge buildings.

When my wife and I arrived in Rock Hill in 1972, Bank of America was still North Carolina National Bank; Interstate 77 was not open in York County; Winthrop was the South Carolina State College for Women; Carowinds was just a dream; and Charlotte had no skyline. It would have taken a crystal ball of extreme clarity to predict the changes that have occurred over the past 36 years. Persons buying homes adjacent to a small airfield 30 years ago should not be punished for the lack of a gift of prophecy.

I do not live in the proposed airport overlay district, or AOD, so I do not (at this time) have a "dog in this fight." I am writing out of a sense of fairness to my neighbors who do live in the AOD. Also, this seems to be an appropriate time to raise fundamental questions about the reasons why we even have Bryant Field. How does Bryant Field improve the quality of life for Rock Hill and York County?

As I understand the argument in favor of the AOD, it is to prevent unwise development (buildings over a certain height, high density housing, etc.) near Bryant Field. It would also require new homebuyers in the AOD to sign a form acknowledging that: "The city of Rock Hill has determined that persons on the premises may be exposed to significant noise levels as a result of airport operations. You should consult the city of Rock Hill to determine the restrictions that have been placed on the subject property."

Lower property values

Such a requirement could not help but lower property values of the affected property. Few of us could withstand the financial repercussions of a major devaluation of the value of our home. How is this fair to the current homeowners in the AOD?

One of the purposes of government is to provide for the common good while protecting the rights of the minority. This is a tough thing to balance. In the case of the AOD, several questions come to mind about common good vs. the rights of the individuals affected:

1) Why do we even have Bryant Field? What purpose does it serve and how does it improve the quality of life of citizens in Rock Hill and York County? Unless you own your own aircraft, would you even miss it if it were not there?

If Bryant Field were not there, would you support a tax levy to build it? What would happen if part of the land were sold, the rest developed into parks and used for school construction? Could the profits from the land sale be used to build sidewalks, bike paths, etc. to improve the quality of life for all vs. keeping the airport for those few of us who actually use it?

Consider alternatives

I am not arguing for these projects; rather, I am simply suggesting that alternatives be considered.

2) If, after a careful cost-benefit analysis, it is determined that a greater good is met by keeping and expanding Bryant Field, then is it fair to expect those homeowners most affected by the AOD to pay a disproportionate financial cost? It would seem fair to me for the city and county governments to create special tax districts in the affected zones of the AOD. Perhaps instead of paying taxes, those property owners would receive payment from the local governments to help defray the decreased property values of their homes.

3) Public discussion and articles in The Herald have suggested that the load-bearing capacity of the airport expansion would be kept at its current limit. The expansion would allow better flight conditions for existing aircraft types but would not support the landing of heavier commercial aircraft as overflow from Charlotte's Douglas International Airport. Are local governments willing to put a limit on load-bearing capacity into law to prevent future expansions? While I do not doubt the integrity of current officials when they say the expansion of Bryant Field will not result in commercial traffic from Charlotte, future officials and boards will not be bound by statements of current authorities.

4) I have looked for the AOD map on the city web site and could not find it. Why is the map not on the city Web site? It is available at NoAOD.com. I suggest that all residents on the northwest side of Rock Hill examine the map. Just as air pollution does not stop at a state line, noise pollution from corporate jets will not stop at a line drawn on a map by a zoning officer. There is some rather expensive real estate within and just outside the AOD near Lake Wylie.

Growth will happen. I am fully aware of that. However, it is up to us to decide if unnecessary growth should be embraced. Deep questions exist about the growth of Bryant Field from a small general aviation airport populated by piston engine small planes to a larger airport populated by corporate jets.

This weekly column features opposing views from readers. These opinions are contrary to those expressed on this page or which otherwise take issue with something that appears in The Herald. All commentaries submitted become the property of The Herald and may be republished in any format.

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