Jacksonville businesses drop lawsuit to extend Craig runway

Two Jacksonville businesses have dropped a court fight over lengthening the runway at Craig Field.

Craig Air Center and Sky Harbor Corp. sued the city in 2010, asking a federal judge to strike down a part of the city’s comprehensive plan that bars the Jacksonville Aviation Authority from extending Craig’s runways.

A judge in Jacksonville dismissed the case in August but the companies turned to a federal appeals court in Atlanta.
They voluntarily gave up the appeal last week, closing a phase in a long-running neighborhood political struggle.
Neither side expects it to be the final word on the matter.

“This particular attempt to lengthen the runway, change the comp plan, is over. Until they try again,” said City Council President Bill Bishop, elected from a district that straddled Arlington and the Southside and included the airport.

The head of one of the companies said he still thinks he’s on the right side but can’t make the city listen.
“It’s sort of a losing battle. The city simply doesn’t seem to understand the need,” said Spence Edwards, president of Sky Harbor Corp.

The company and Craig Air Center are so-called fixed-based operators that provide services like fuel, parking and plane tie-downs at Craig, labeled a “reliever airport” for general aviation flights. The two runways are both about 4,000 feet long and extension advocates say federal standards call for 5,000 feet. An Aviation Authority master plan envisioned a 5,600-foot runway.

Neighborhood activists say longer runways will mean larger planes and more noise and crash risk to homes around Craig. That can also damage home values and ruin neighborhoods and the financial plans of thousands of residents, said Lad Hawkins, president of the Greater Arlington Civic Council.

“There are an awful lot of people out there concerned about it,” said Hawkins, adding that a Realtors group has sided with their efforts to keep the runways unchanged. He said the comprehensive plan, a blueprint for the city’s growth, has barred runway expansion since 1990.

“We’re very happy about this Craig Field situation,” Hawkins said of the dropped appeal, adding that a public consensus has developed around the airport’s current footprint.

Over time, he said, “I’m fully confident that we’re going to win this thing.”

steve.patterson@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4263

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