A sparsely attended hearing Tuesday at Republic Airport on the proposed construction of seven 36,000-square-foot hangars and other projects to greatly expand the footprint of the airport's main tenant drew just a handful of speakers.
The hearing, where most speakers criticized the plans, came after the January release of a draft environmental impact report by the state Department of Transportation. The report found the $55 million development by aircraft servicing company Sheltair, along with proposed runway safety projects, would have little adverse impact on communities surrounding the 530-acre airport in East Farmingdale.
"Bigger planes are going to bring in more pollution and more noise to our area," said Karen Williams of Farmingdale. Eileen Lamden, also of Farmingdale, complained of noise and pollution from planes taking off and landing at Republic and said that further aviation development at the airport would not bring tax revenue to the surrounding communities.
"We need hotels, we need retail space," she said. "I'm very concerned that the Farmingdale School District has lost a lot of tax revenue with this airport."
Aviation businesses at the airport do, however, make payments in lieu of taxes. And not all comments were negative. Robert Gordon of West Hills, president of the airport's Pilots Association, said his group supported Sheltair's plans.
Because proposed runway safety improvements would affect Sheltair's existing facilities in the northern part of the airport's grounds, the company would relocate to a 41-acre wooded section in the south. Construction there would mean removing shrub land, pitch pine and oak forest to make way for hangars and office space, 503 parking spots and a new "fuel field" consisting of four 20,000-gallon jet fuel tanks, one 10,000-gallon tank for aviation fuel and one 2,000-gallon tank for diesel and unleaded fuel.
Sheltair expects employment to grow from 97 to 178 full-time positions with the development, with 150 temporary construction jobs. The company projects the number of aircraft that could be based at Republic would increase from 21 to 64. Sheltair officials said they expect the final environmental report to be issued in the fall.