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Group Says it Stalled OSU Airport Expansion Project
Columbus Dispatch, April 25, 2005

By Dean Narciso
Reprinted by Permission

Construction might have been well under way had a campaign not been waged against development of Ohio State University's Don Scott Field airport, a citizens group says.

Plans to extend the airport's north runway and add several hangars have been in the works for more than a decade. But since fall 2003 and the formation of the group, We Oppose the Ohio State (airport) Expansion, progress has been stalled.

Tony Pello, a 24-year resident of Worthington and outgoing president of the group, is convinced that the project would have been under way or completed without the residents' objections.

"They've got some businesspeople who want to get this done as quickly as possible and slide it by,'' he said of OSU. "I think we have made them go back to the drawing board on this issue. They tried to do a very minimal due diligence, and much of what they did was flawed.''

OSU trustees and President Karen A. Holbrook have pledged to consider all criticism of the proposed expansion before proceeding. Residents have repeatedly said that the university has not been candid or responsive to their inquiries.

In November, OSU officials revised a timeline for the expansion plans, setting April 1 as the tentative date for the OSU Board of Trustees to vote on the project.

Today, OSU has no timeline. The university continues to revise an environmental assessment required by the Federal Aviation Administration and to analyze a broader range of flight data to determine noise impact, said OSU spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk.

A new plan will come from those studies, said William A. Baeslack III, dean of the College of Engineering.

Critics of the airport expansion were concerned that OSU used only 10 days of noise data collected in February.

Dennis Hennen, president of the citizens group, thinks the delays might be tactical.

"Perhaps their strategy is to draw it out until our volunteers get weary and start dropping out and then there's no opposition to push that through,'' he said recently. "But they need to know we're in this for the long haul and they're going to have to fight this on the basis of the merits of the proposal instead of the delaying tactics.''

The group's report last month recommended that OSU:

* Mitigate aircraft noise to affected homes before proceeding with expansion plans.

* Establish a system to record and address citizens' complaints.

* Prepare an airport business plan that considers the role of other airports in the area.

* Perform an analysis that considers benefits to OSU and detriments to the local residents.

Two weeks ago, the Worthington City Council agreed to send a letter to OSU trustees asking them to respond to the report's recommendations.

Baeslack said he plans to meet with Worthington officials.

OSU officials say the expansion would improve air safety, better serve its airport customers and improve OSU's aeronautical-engineering and flight-training programs.

The university has advertised the airport as Central Ohio's Corporate Gateway, a title that residents equate with loud corporate jets.

Airport Director Doug Hammon said he's doing everything he can to respond to residents.

He recently agreed to create an Internet noise-reporting system. Residents can log complaints at Woose.org, which forwards comments to Hammon, who has pledged to respond to each one.

dnarciso@dispatch.com

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