Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New developments on airport-campground issue: Wiscasset Airport (KIWI), Maine

Consultants are reviewing a wording change that Chewonki Campground has requested for the Wiscasset Municipal Airport’s master plan, Interim Wiscasset Town Manager Don Gerrish said July 15.

Selectmen briefly discussed the possibility of making that change before they approve the plan, a guide for the airport’s next 20 years; but Gerrish advised them to wait on a decision regarding the change until he has heard back from the consultants who worked on the plan. He sought their input about the campground’s request, he said.

The board was still scheduled to consider the plan at a special meeting on July 22; Gerrish said he hoped to hear back from the consultants later this week.

At issue are some campground trees that stick into the airport’s airspace. If removed, the campground would lose the use of as many as 23 of its 47 sites, owners Pam Brackett and Ann Deck have said. In a July 5 interview with the Wiscasset Newspaper, Brackett said the loss would be devastating to the Chewonki Neck Road business she and her sister have run since 1969.

In a July 10 letter to selectmen, the two call for the master plan to include the option of seeking waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration. The current draft of the plan lists the possibility of pursuing easements, a prospect Brackett and Beck have opposed. Under their requested language change, that part of the plan would include both options.

Selectmen’s Vice Chairman Ben Rines Jr. said he would like the matter worked out before the board takes up the plan. “I would like to sign on the dotted line,” he said, adding that the campground has a lot of support from townspeople. He can recall years ago when people were hoping it would do well, he said.

It has. Brackett and Beck estimate campground guests pump as much as $2 million a year into the local economy.

The wording change is part of a proposed amendment that also calls for moving up the timetable for a runway extension. The letter from Brackett and Beck describes the easement issue as one of their main concerns. “If the wordage (on waivers) can be put into the amendment, we think we can move forward in a positive direction for all involved,” the letter states.

Even after the board approves the master plan, it will still be subject to change, according to Chairman Pam Dunning.

“It’s not a contract. It’s not written in stone,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We change it as we so choose.”

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