Hearing to focus on airstrip

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

Members of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Jan. 8 to make a decision regarding a special use permit for a potential private airstrip on property bordering Jericho Road.

Morgan Dunnavant

The property is owned by District Four Supervisor Morgan Dunnavant, and his application concerns a special use permit for a 170-acre parcel on Jericho Road in the Maysville Magisterial District.

The property is zoned Agricultural 1, according to the application.

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“Mr. Dunnavant is requesting a 2,300-foot grass airstrip for non-commercial private usage on an infrequent basis,” the board packet from a Sept. 25 Buckingham County Planning Commission meeting cited. “The (Federal Aviation Administration) FAA does not require airstrips of this description to be certified by the FAA but will be required to register the airstrip.”

Members of the planning commission held a public hearing Nov. 20 regarding the airstrip. One member of the public spoke in favor of the airstrip, while one member of the public expressed concern about fuel usage.

According to comments provided in the meeting board packet, District Five resident Carl Williams expressed support for the airstrip and said fueling the aircraft would pose no greater risk than fueling other vehicles.

“The kind of airplanes he’s landing he’s in a grass strip; it’s no different than landing in a hayfield. It’s not a commercial airport,” Williams said. “It’s just an airstrip to keep a private airplane, … and I mean, to me, fueling is no different than putting fuel in your tractor.”

Katharine Smith, whose grandmother’s estate is adjacent to the site of the proposed airstrip, expressed concern about the timbered property surrounding the proposed airstrip site and said the aircraft is different than most vehicles.

“I don’t know what’s your … supply up here, but Cessna (aircrafts) take a little bit more than a tractor,” Smith said.

A Cessna aircraft is typically a single-engine aircraft, according to the company’s website. 

“It just doesn’t seem like the right place considering the heavy timber industry up here,” Smith said. “If he builds there, it would also restrict the use of the adjoining properties, because Cessnas do require a fair landing strip. And I’d hate to see the gentility and the beauty of the landscape of this area fouled up by another airport.”

Dunnavant spoke during the hearing, noting that the amount of gas kept in the plane would be light.

“As far as the fueling question, I have no intention of operating a fueling station,” Dunnavant said. “The total quantity of fuel the aircraft I have holds is 40 gallons in the main tanks. You add that to the auxiliary tanks, it can hold almost 70 gallons. I generally try to keep it as light as possible. So coming in and out of grass fields, I try to be 15-16 gallons, otherwise it takes an awful long ways to get off the ground. Any other concerns you know as far as noise, it’s nowhere as noisy as the tractor-trailers on the road and these young boys with them four-wheel drive trucks and big old gumbo monster tires.”

Commission Chairman Alice Gormus asked whether Dunnavant’s aircraft would be the only vehicle on the airstrip.

“And you would be the only one that would be flying in and out of there unless it was
some extreme emergency,” Gormus said.

“Just personal use like your driveway at your house,” Dunnavant said. “You use it, and your invited guests use it.”

Following the hearing, members of the commission voted to recommend approval of the airstrip to the board of supervisors with 13 conditions established by the commission.