Posted: 6:04 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, 2012
LAKE COUNTY, Florida —
A proposed airstrip expansion is creating controversy in Lake County.
A land owner wants to extend a runway next to the Lake Apopka preservation area so private jets can use it.
However, wildlife conservationists are fighting the project.
“I think there is plenty of room for the airport and the birds,” project applicant Hank Scott said.
Scott took three minutes to make his case before the Lake County Commission. He and more than a dozen others wore yellow buttons describing the potential economic impact the project will have on jobs.
“They are worried about a few birds. If you don't have food to eat because you don't have a job you're not going to be able to watch the damn birds,” said Scott.
Scott wants to expand the existing runway another 1,500 feet. However, that area is considered a safety zone and planes can't land in there.
Audubon members told WFTV that expanding the runway would be a step backwards from the $150 million already spent to preserve the land and birds that were flying a top the trees.
Increased air traffic would heighten the potential for bird strikes, Audubon members said.
“We are not against projects that create jobs. We, in fact, think the restoration project will create more jobs than this project will,” said Loretta Satterthwaite of the Audubon Society.
“If we limit the size of the jet based on weight then that narrows the conflict in my opinion,” said Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner.
The commission will weigh that option and others presented on Tuesday over the next 30 days.
Lake County commissioners will also meet with Orange County leaders since part of the runway falls within their territory.