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Thu, Apr 19, 2007

Sikorsky Airport Gains Construction Approval

Plan Calls For 65 T-Hangars On Unused Runway

New construction was approved Tuesday for Connecticut's Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR) -- the first in 23 years. Not for the long-debated airport expansion or runway improvements, but for 65 T-hangars to be placed on a runway that has not been used for more than 20 years.

Last week, the Stratford, CT Town Council directed Mayor James R. Miron to initiate talks about acquiring the airport from the city of Bridgeport. Now, the Town's Zoning Commission has given unanimous approval to a local company to proceed with a million-dollar plan to provide more hangar space for general aviation aircraft.

BDR is located in Stratford but owned by Bridgeport. Hartford lawmakers are contemplating a possible state takeover of the 800-acre airport.

While pols are contemplating, a proposal that calls for constructing a cluster of "T-hangars" on the unused runway was presented at Tuesday's public hearing was presented by New England Hangar Development LLC. The proposal met with strong support.

Even residents living near the airport -- who have long opposed expansion and runway improvements, expressed their support -- according to The Connecticut Post.

"I know it's strange for me to be standing up here supporting anything concerning the airport, but this plan would be good for the area by cleaning up what has become an eyesore to the community," Second Avenue resident Walter Rimkunas, who has opposed airport expansion for decades, told the Council.

"As long as this doesn't change the footprint of the airport, I don't think anybody in the community is going to object," he said.

Company co-presidents Gene Shapiro and Bud McGarry said the plan would not change the airport's footprint.

"This is not a plan to expand, just to provide space for small planes to be inside hangars," Shapiro said. "That's good for the planes and pilots and for the community."

Brooks Acoustics Corp. President Bennett M. Brooks told the commission the hangars "would actually even lessen noise."

Former airport manager Morgan Kaolian urged the proposal's approval.

"Airplanes need to be housed for protection, and this plan is a good one," Kaolian said.

There was one fly in the ointment. A local attorney warned the zoning panel it should delay their decision because of possible legal issues -- issues that might arise if the airport were to be sold and closed.

"I want to remind the commission that just last week the Town Council voted for the mayor to begin negotiations with the city of Bridgeport to obtain the airport," Stratford attorney Barry Knott said.

"I think before you make any decision, you should consult with the town attorney on what would happen if the town obtains the airport and shuts it down," Knott said. "There could be tremendous liability on the town's part if that happens."

But Heather Brown, an attorney representing New England Hangar Development Inc., said Knott's comments "are not germane to the proposal and inappropriate."

"This is not a matter for the Zoning Commission to consider," Brown said. "Besides, the chances of the town obtaining the airport are very, very slim."

Shapiro said he is "very excited that finally something new has been approved at the airport after many years, and we look forward to being part of that."

The proposed hangars are to be 10 feet high and 33 feet wide and placed side by side on a closed runway at the southern end of the airport property, near Lordship Boulevard. They will sell for about $50,000 each and pilots would have to pay about $180 a month to lease the space, as well as an additional property tax to the town of Stratford

As part of the agreement, the company will also clear the debris from the 'South Ramp,' a former runway which is within a residential zone.

FMI: www.ifly.com/sikorsky-memorial-airport

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