Crowd Tells Gwinnett Commission “Say No” To Airport Commercialization.

A large crowd showed up at last night’s County Commission meeting in opposition to the idea of commercial flights at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville.

Nearly 500 people packed into the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, filling in seats as people completed the rezoning business that brought them to the building. While the county has preliminary approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to study privatization options, there was no formal discussion on the plan on Tuesday’s agenda.

Instead, Rick Schneider of Citizens for Better Gwinnett said the community did not want to wait on public hearings planned for the future to bring to light their disapproval of the expansion idea.

At times the crowd was belligerent, with commissioners once threatening to throw a political candidate out of the hearing.

But Chairman Charles Bannister said board members would take note of the opinions, as the process moves forward. Officials have recently accepted qualifications from three companies, but no proposals have been submitted. Options at this point include continuing the airport operation as it is, privatizing the airport as general aviation or privatizing it and allowing commercial operations.

“We intend to be deliberate, and we do not intend to rush to any conclusion,” he said.

Concerns from the crowd included property values, traffic, crime, water and quality of life. On top of that, though, many of the speakers Tuesday expressed distrust in the elected officials, especially after a controversial trash plan was approved despite public dismay.


  1. sndeak says:

    The bigger problem is that nobody trusts this BOC. That is really getting in the way of a meaningful debate about this issue.

    Additionally, if you buy/build a house near an airport you should know better than to assume there will never be the possibility of commercialization.

  2. Steve says:

    I somewhat share the concerns raised, but for me the #1 item is the “trust” factor in the last sentence. That pro-proposal website dances around the specifics, yet makes it clear that tax money will be required for at least new access roads and other infrastructure. It’s also unclear what degree of tax breaks, or even subsidies and grants might be involved.

    My problem right now is that we’re hearing the word “privatization” repeated over and over again, without full context. That word sometimes privatization in the positive sense… and other times it’s a way to put positive spin on outright corporate welfare. Right now I have zero milligrams of trust in the Gwinnett BOC to stay on the correct side of that divide.

    Either way, the word “privatization” has magical fairy-dust properties… such that when you sprinkle it on a proposal it makes a lot of people’s brains shut off without reading any further. Show us some real numbers, so we can have a real conversation rather than a buzzword battle. What would be the public’s share of the “public-private partnership” equation?

  3. jm says:

    I think the FAA is telling the ATL metro area that it has to have another airport, that’s who pushes these sorts of things. They tried to do it to us a few years back, but those of us in DeKalb fought back – PDK can’t get much bigger, not cheaply, and the residents are already a nightmare headache for the airport and FAA (sued them and won, baby!). Gwinnet makes sense. The area’s not as developed as McCollum or Charlie Brown, the airspace there isn’t near as crowded. 316 leads straight to I-85 and to Athens. Any further north and you’ve got too much mountain to deal with, and it really doesn’t become a Metro Atlanta airport.

  4. Gerald says:

    Atlanta has needed another airport for years. Lots of the big metro areas have at least 2 airports, plus Atlanta is a gateway to and from other southern cities plus international flights. It would be great if the two airports were actually able to coordinate and send most of the local traffic (i.e. folks going on regional carriers, and people whose origins or destinations are Atlanta) to one airport and send the people with connecting and international flights to another. The second airport would also spur economic development, both generating jobs in constructing and operating the airport itself, and the transportation options (including the fact that the region actually values transportation enough to plan for and provide options) would make the Atlanta area more attractive to companies, especially the ones that we have been losing to ALABAMA and SOUTH CAROLINA the past several years. And yes, putting an airport “on the northside” would force that region of the metro area to stop contriving anti-MARTA excuses and get serious about public transportation, whether joining MARTA or creating an alternative.

    Despite all of the benefits and absolutely no downside, it has never happened in all these years and probably never will because of suburbanite politics. The suburbanites and the politicians who pander to them would rather battle the city of Atlanta until the end of the age for control over the existing airport rather than build their own (basically the same thing that is true with MARTA and Grady Hospital). And anything that requires the government to, you know, act and spend money is a repudiation of their political philosophy. The suburbanites and their representatives would rather pretend that if we cut enough taxes or spending (or failing both, simply cut taxes), bust up enough unions (especially if they are public employee sector), and eliminate enough regulations, the private sector will come along and build an airport for us, and not only that but do a better job than the city of Atlanta!

    And if the private sector comes to the SHOCKING conclusion that building and operating their own airport won’t generate enough profits in the next 3-5 years (which is now corporate America thinks these days, the era when corporate America made long term investments for the future is long gone) and therefore decides not to do it, then the suburbanites and their politicians decide that anything that the private sector doesn’t do isn’t worth doing, so obviously we don’t need another airport. Never mind that we would have never even had Hartsfield if we were going to sit around and wait for private industry to build it. (For that matter, we wouldn’t have the University of Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Medical College of Georgia etc. either. Agnes Scott would never have even existed because there wouldn’t have been any Georgia Tech guys for them to marry.)

    Not that the suburbanites are entirely to blame, mind you. The city of Atlanta could have long ago extended an olive branch so that projects like another airport and regional transportation and water issues could get solved, but NOOOOH. That would be rewarding the white flight people! (Never mind that most metro Atlantans actually came here from out of state, and that blacks started leaving the city for the suburbs 20 years ago.) If there is an area of the country where dumb local politics does more to hold us back, I don’t know what it is. Even Detroit has an excuse for a lot of their problems (the decline of the auto industry), but the Atlanta area has none.

    • AubieTurtle says:

      What on earth are you talking about? The City of Atlanta has been beating the regional transportation drum forever. It’s only been in the past couple of years that the ‘burbs would even think about the remote possibility of cooperating on anything outside of their fiefdoms. And even if the City of Atlanta didn’t want to cooperate, the 90% of the population that lives outside of the city could easily make it happen… they simply don’t want to.

  5. Max Power says:

    I can’t understand this whole privatization thing anyway. Briscoe isn’t suited to commercial traffic without a lot of work.

    1) the runway is only 6K which means a fully loaded CRJ can’t takeoff from there. The crj is the workhorse of the short duration airfleet. A 737 could take off and land there but if you’ve ever been on a 737 on a short runway you know its more like an amusement park ride than a flight.

    2) ILS only on runway 25 so that means a big capital investment to get planes landing both ways.

    3) It’s pretty busy as a GA airport. Which means managing air traffic would get pretty complex pretty quick.

    So if it’s not suited as a 2nd commercial airport that leaves a private GA airport which really doesn’t make financial sense. If you want a 2nd commercial airport in Atlanta, you should look at Dobbins.

      • Max Power says:

        Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already been done. Dobbins has a 10K runway with instrument approaches both ways. There’s plenty of space for maintenance work, easy access via I-75 and Delk and plenty of parking at Lockheed. They basically just need to throw up a terminal and baggage handling system and you could have a second metro airport up and running in no time. All we need to do is get the bureaucracies at the DoD, the FAA, Lockheed, and Cobb County all working together. Oh wait, that will never happen.

        • AubieTurtle says:

          You forgot about the NIMBYs who would quite reasonably have an issue with the additional traffic generated by a commercial airport. Dobbins and Lockheed aren’t exactly a quiet neighbor and they do generate traffic of its own but nothing compared to a commercial airport.

          In the end, the NIMBYs might be outnumbered but it certainly wouldn’t go in without a fight.

  6. I’ve been told that there is a line in the legislation creating Dobbins that prevents it from being used for commercial air traffic. Congress would have to get involved.

    • Max Power says:

      My understanding is just the opposite: that it was always intended to be Atlanta’s second airport because it was on the old Atlanta-Marietta streetcar line.

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