OWATONNA — Eighteen months of work will be on display Tuesday during an open house at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport.
Airport staff will present information about the new Airport Master Plan that has been in development since fall of 2013. Display boards and other informational materials will be available at the airport from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., along with staff members from the airport and its consulting firm to answer questions.
Developing a master plan is a process that airports are supposed to do every 10 to 20 years, Airport Manager Dave Beaver said. In the case of Degner, the new plan is a little overdue.
“That’s an FAA-required process that all airports have to go through,” Beaver said. “The last time we did this sort of thing was 1974.”
Although owned by the City of Owatonna, the airport is a part of the federal aviation system and both receives funding and is subject to regulation from the federal government. The FAA requires a master plan to ensure that airports are able to meet the needs of their communities by not, for example, becoming landlocked amid other developments.
“We just want to be sure that, down the road, we have the opportunity to develop to further serve the Owatonna community,” Beaver said.
To that end, the airport established a master plan advisory group with stakeholders from the city, the county, airport users, business tenants, regulatory agencies and more. That group has inventoried existing facilities, surveyed users to determine their current and future needs, and worked with nearby property owners to determine their future plans and development needs.
“It’s really good, I think, to bring the different stakeholders in … so it’s kind of a coordinated effort, so our process involves their process as well,” Beaver said.
And while there are no immediate plans for new development at the airport, the master plan will help officials respond appropriately to future changes in airport usage.
“We do have very good facilities right now,” Beaver said. “In the end, it boils down to a document we can hopefully use to guide our future development.”
The master plan also is a resource for business development, Beaver said.
“Let’s say a large employer wants to move to Owatonna,” he said. “They look at a lot of things … They look at transportation and technology and what can the airport accommodate. We want to be able to say, ‘Yeah, we’ve looked at that. Here’s our plan. We’ve looked at those needs.’”
Beaver said the airport currently is home to more than 50 aircraft and several companies that provide maintenance, flight training and other services. He said about 15 to 17 companies in Owatonna regularly use the airport for business aviation. Each of these groups was represented in the planning process.
As for the open house, Beaver said the hope is to gather feedback and input before the airport prepares a final version of the plan to submit to the city and, eventually, the FAA.
“We want there to be a full understanding of the process we’ve gone through and who’s been involved there in that,” Beaver said. “If, for example, a surrounding landowner has questions about how their land might be used or how it might be affected down the road … we want an opportunity to discuss that with them.”
And with feedback from the open house in hand, the airport will be nearly finished with the long and painstaking process, Beaver said.
“We’re coming close to the end and think we’ve gathered some valuable information,” he said.