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Plans under way to upgrade Meadow Lake Airport

In 1970, the Meadow Lake subdivision was designed as an “airpark.” Everett Conover, the original land owner, had a vision of a subdivision where pilots could store their planes in hangers on their own property and taxi to and from the runway.His vision was a dream-come-true for small aircraft pilots. Rural residential five-acre lots were sold with deeded taxiways that are still coveted by pilots today.But the rural nature of the airport changed along with the growing population of Colorado Springs and Falcon. Today the airport is classified by the Federal Aviation Administration as a General Aviation Reliever Airport, designated to relieve congestion from the Springs airport by providing a separate landing location for small aircraft and the occasional business jet.Land planner Bill Guman, acting on behalf of the Meadow Lake Airport Association and the Meadow Lake Industrial Park, presented a sketch plan to the El Paso County Planning Commission on Jan. 16.He said the plan, which covers approximately 1,008 acres, is designed to establish an identity for the airport that reflects both the marketing conditions and growth trends surrounding the airport.Jim Sirhall and Michael Haak, airport developers, also presented a future airport layout plan.The plan is designed to upgrade the existing runways in order to comply with current FAA safety standards.”If the Meadow Lake Airport is not upgraded soon it may cease to exist,î Guman said. He added that with the current pace of growth in the surrounding area, it is time to reserve the land for airport expansion.Both the main and cross-wind runways will be moved to the south and extended in length and width. A shorter runway will be built parallel to the main runway to accommodate gliders.In a Jan. 15 letter addressed to the planning commission, the FAA and the Colorado Department of Transportation expressed their “support and commitment to the safety, development and protection of the Meadow Lake Airport.”Over the past four years, the FAA and CDOT issued grants totaling more than $3.5 million, allowing the Meadow Lake Airport Authority to acquire property surrounding the airport. Last April, they issued another grant to fund the airport layout plan presented to the commission to serve as a guide for the airport’s development for the next 20 years.Guman said while the airport layout plan is not part of the sketch plan, improving the runways is “an integral part of the economic development for the entire area.”The sketch plan includes 274.3 acres of industrial zoning, 225.6 commercial acres and 301.8 acres slated for airfield improvements, including a 35.5-acre lot for an aviation terminal.The remaining acres will be used for open space, drainage and road rights-of-way.More than 60 Meadow Lake residents attended a neighborhood meeting, where ìa large majority of attendees expressed approval for the Meadow Lake Airport expansion plan,” Guman said.However, a number of residents questioned why the airport was being expanded.Guman said the expansion is necessary “to accommodate future growth in aviation in the Colorado Springs area.”He said the primary reasons for the expansion are to address safety issues and to generate revenue so Meadow Lake can remain part of the national aviation system.But Richard Martin, resident of Meadow Lake and a member of the MLAA, said,î The expansion is a pie-in-the-sky idea. There is no need for a control tower at this airport, and a parallel runway with sail planes landing next to small business jets is a bad idea.”Other residents were concerned about losing their taxiways, but Guman said taxiways will be maintained under the terms previously agreed on.Sandy Martin, president of the Meadow Lake Homeowners Association, said she has questions about the water supply for the 1,008 acres.The sketch plan calls for a central water system provided by the Sunset Metro District that will serve all commercial and industrial development.However, knowing the planning commission does not address water issues during the sketch plan phase of development, Martin said she would address that issue at the appropriate time.Adrian Reed, the only resident who attended the hearing to speak against the sketch plan proposal, expressed concerns about increased traffic on Aerostar Drive.She requested the road be made into a cul de sac so commercial traffic would not be driving through her neighborhood.Henry Reitwiesner, construction manager and long range planner for Falcon School District, said he wanted to make it clear that the school district is in favor of commercial and industrial development because of the tax revenue it provides to the district.However, Reitwiesner said there may be significant safety issues if the airport is expanded to accommodate additional flights, and he wants the school district to be included in future discussions of the airport layout plans.He then presented a map showing all Falcon area schools within the airport influence zone, especially the high school currently under construction ñ it sits directly north of the runway.Mark Gebhart, county planner, said the sketch plan approval ìcertainly does not mean the commission is approving the airport layout plan.”He added, “There will be a number of future hearings for the airport layout plan itself.”Edward Bracken, a planning commissioner who has been a pilot for many years, warned developers that when the airport layout plan is presented to the planning board it would be heavy scrutinized.The planning commission voted 9-to-1 to approve the sketch plan.After casting the dissenting vote, John Vohland said he did so because all too often once a sketch plan of this magnitude is approved planners feel obligated to go forward with all other parts of the development.Guman said total build-out for the airport may take more than 50 years, but once the new runway expansion is completed, the site could be fully developed within the next 20 to 30 years.

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