Sunday, January 20, 2013

Permit dispute closes private runway: Twin Lakes Air Park (S17), Graniteville, South Carolina

Twin Lakes Air Park has been closed by court order for several weeks because, when the runway was widened in 2006, the air strip’s owners did not secure the proper permits from Aiken County.

Twin Lakes Air Park off Bettis Academy Road features a private air strip that residents use for their private planes. 

The runway in Twin Lakes is closed per a court order obtained by Aiken County because the proper permits were not filed when the runway was widened in 2006, but community residents said they did everything they believed was required of them. 

 Twin Lakes, off Bettis Academy Road, has its own airstrip which is used by many of the private plane owners who live in the neighborhood. The runway’s code, as identified by the Federal Aviation Administration, is S17.

S17 is also the name of the neighborhood’s homeowners association that owns the runway.

In 2006, the runway was widened to 60 feet from 40 feet. S17 utilized a contractor company out of Columbia to do the work, and reportedly sent a letter to Aiken County Planning and Development advising the department of the plans.

“They did not get development permits,” said Stephen Strohminger, director of Planning and Development. Permitting for such a project includes stormwater runoff plans and other engineering reports.

S17 claims it received a letter back from Planning and Development, which stated County Council would be informed of the widening project. It appears nothing happened after that.

It wasn’t until someone submitted a complaint to Aiken County, according to staff, that officials took action.

Jerry Crawford, a Twin Lakes resident who spoke to County Council this week, asked that staff “cease and desist” with the court order.

“County staff has threatened fines and jail time,” he said.

Crawford requested the runway be opened again because the property owners never intended to violate any County permitting laws and because no one received any response after from County officials after the initial letter.

He believes it’s a waste of time and money to mess with this “piddly little problem.”

“From this body’s standpoint, there has been a violation,” said Councilman Chuck Smith. “We need to have assurances that things were done right.”

Now, Aiken County requires that an engineer inspect the runway and check that certain aspects like level, thickness of paving and stormwater runoff comply with the plans S17 must submit. If the engineer approves, then the runway can reopen.

Strohminger said S17 hasn’t submitted anything yet.

“They basically have to start over from scratch,” he said.

County Attorney Lawrence Brown said this week that S17 cannot come to a consensus between it and other property owners in the area to hire an engineer to perform the necessary inspections.

“I can’t be their mediator. I am waiting on a call from the S17’s attorney,” he said.

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