Stafford Regional Airport Authority members discussed efforts to discourage a large residential development from being built in the facility’s shadow.
Reports in August indicated that a developer wanted to build Oakenwald, a residential development of nearly 700 units on land near the airport.
“I think we really need to get ahead of his,” said authority member Lindy Kirkland during the authority’s meeting Tuesday. “Right now we’re in react mode… Otherwise, we’re late to the game.”
“There is a desire to use that land, but let’s do it wisely,” he said after the meeting. He is looking to do a more “proactive education” of community officials about this issue, he said. When land uses were first discussed 20 years ago, Kirkland said, light uses were in the mix but high density housing was considered the worst.
Provisions are normally made in land owner covenants about the airport’s proximity to the housing, he said. Whether homeowners ignore it or don’t fully understand is unclear. After some time, the inevitable noise complaints become common, and in too many instances the airport is closed as a result.
Kirkland pointed to the former Woodbridge Airport. At one time, he said, it was a thriving facility. Within two years of high density housing being built near the facility, it was closed.
According to airfields-freeman.com, the Woodbridge Airport goes back to 1959 in a very rural area of Prince William County. The area grew and by 1979 was “at the peak of its popularity,’” according to the site, boasting a paved runway and two rows of T-hangars. There were 113 aircraft based there in 1986, its final year.
It was closed, due to “rapidly encroaching development,” states the website, showing a photo of townhouses near the runway.
Authority members point to an already substantial investment in the airport. A new terminal that cost $2.8 million is now open. The building was constructed with grants from the Virginia Aviation Authority, monies that are collected for statewide aviation fees, not for the general fund.
Airport manager Ed Wallis noted a 2010 economic impact study by Virginia Aviation that indicates the airport added $18.9 million to the regional economy.
Oakenwald developers have changed some of their layouts, Kirkland said, adding that rezoning of the property is yet to be approved.