AMPAC Reviews Final Airport Plan

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Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–The Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee (AMPAC) last week completed a review of the document’s final chapter in preparation for a public presentation at a date to be announced.

In a nearly 5.5 hour discussion of narrowing alternatives to lengthening or realigning runways and adding hangers, AMPAC reiterated its opposition to a longer runway that would accommodate more jets.

The east-west runway could be lengthen by 440 feet to the west at most and still keep the runway protection zone on the airport property, said Greg Stern of Mead & Hunt, project director. 

A 1,440-feet extension would satisfy insurance requirements for business-type jet operations during slippery conditions, but navigation easements would have to be acquired for a runway protection zone for the longer landing strip, Stern said.

A 200-foot extension could be justified to the Federal Aviation Administration based on the current number of take offs and landings, Stern said. If the city would lengthen the runway, Stern suggested timing it when the runway’s 20-year-old paving needs to be replaced.

Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field Manager Richard Morey said improvements need to strike a balance between the needs of the pilots and those of nearby residents.

“Adding a 200 foot or 440 foot at most could be done when the runway is repaved. A longer extension is not a fit for this airport,” he said.

The proximity to Dane County Regional Airport and lessening noise from overflights factored into Commission Member Mark Warshauer’s opinion.

“I’m concern about a lower approach profile from the west. The longer the runway the lower we get and I have sensitivity to people living on the west side of the airport,” he said.

The north-south, grass runway is used by about 25 of the 100 airplanes based at Morey Field but it intersects with the east-west runway and its runway protection zone crosses Airport Road and interferes with property development.

An alternative that pushed the runway north to bring the runway protection zone onto the airport property and avoid intersecting with the other runway would requiring moving Schneider Road north, which Committee Member Dan Dresen called “a non-starter.”

“That would cutoff fields from farmers and farmers already lost land to the US 12 expansion. We will need cooperation from farmers for storm water management plans,” said Dresen, who also is a Town of Springfield board supervisor.

Morey said a grass runway is needed at the airport and favored buying land north and south of the airport to accommodate it and not rely on easements to better fit the runway on airport property.

He called a land purchase and a lease back to the farmers at a reasonable rate a “win-win for all,” except those who may want to develop their property later.

Adding hangers to the airport also probably means acquiring more property as buildable areas at the airport wouldn’t accommodate much expansion.

While demand for hangers was debated, Morey guaranteed that there would a rush to occupy any new hangers.

“You’d need a lottery to choose who gets them,” he said.

Matt Hofeldt, owner of Capital Flight, said the company would also be interested in leasing “100 percent” of any new available land from the city.

Addressing lead emissions from aviation fuel was the meeting’s most contentious issue with Cynthia Richson, Town of Middleton Board Chair, and Julie Loeffler saying the language of environmental impacts Mead & Hunt included didn’t go far enough.

Loeffler said the airport is the county’s second-largest source of lead emissions and the Environmental Protection Agency and the FAA are working on reducing lead in aviation gas used in piston-driven plane. But the master plan needs to better address that.

“This is part of the plan the (Middleton) Common Council will use,” to make any airport improvements, she said, noting its importance.

Richson said the language in appendix H about lead emissions was inaccurate and not understandable to the public and it should be corrected or excluded.

City Planner Mark Opitz said the language is Mead & Hunt’s work product and the committee shouldn’t make wholesale changes to a plan on which the firm puts its name on.

“I’d be embarrassed to say that this is professional,” Richson responded.

The committee and Mead & Hunt couldn’t agree on a date to hold a Zoom presentation of the master plan to the public or exactly how to structure the presentation.  Dates, in March, April and May were discussed but details will be announced at a later time.


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