Port to study commercial flights at Langley airpark

FREELAND - Commissioners for the Port of South Whidbey voted to spend $30,000 to study if Whidbey Airpark near Langley has a future as a publicly-owned, general aviation airport that could be used for commercial, private and emergency flights.

Port commissioners have been talking privately for more than a year about a potential purchase of land at the Crawford Road site. Port officials have said the purchase of the industrially-zoned property could lead to additional economic development on the South End if the port buys and then leases the land to private companies.

Most of the money for the airport study is coming from a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The state will contribute $28,500 to the study, while the port’s share is $1,500.

Although the port's grant application states the study may lead to the privately-owned airstrip becoming a public airport, port commissioners stressed that talk about Whidbey Airpark is in its early stages.

"The port has no plans for an airport at this time," Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said last week.

Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert authored the grant application, which was submitted in November 2007 and revised last week. He told fellow commissioners the port's comprehensive plan requires a periodic review of the airport.

The study will examine what needs to be done to make the airpark comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules and will also examine the improvements that are needed for a port takeover of the property.

The 43-acre airpark is owned by Whidbey Airpark Corp. It is currently for sale for approximately $1.7 million, according to the airport's Web site.

Roy Deaver, one of five owners of Whidbey Airpark, said the port made an offer to buy the property about six months ago.

"I don't remember the details, but it wasn’t acceptable," he said.

In the grant application, Tapert also noted there are no publicly-owned airports on the South End and said the airpark is centrally located within Puget Sound.

According to an earlier state review, general aviation activity at Whidbey Airpark accounted for nearly 5,000 passengers and visitors in 2006.

Port manager Ed Field said the money will be used to hire a consultant to see what improvements are needed should the port decide to purchase the airpark.

Seitle said the idea is in line with what a port district is supposed to do, namely to examine opportunities for economic development.

"We'll take a look and see what an expert has to say," Seitle said.

Although the port currently lacks the funding that would be necessary to purchase the airpark property, port commissioners are considering a ballot measure for the November election that would triple the port’s property tax levy and supply enough revenue to upgrade the Langley Marina and help pay for other projects.

The port has also been following Island County’s efforts to develop a paved road between

Highway 525 and the airpark. Currently, only about two-tenths of a mile of Crawford Road north of Highway 525 is paved. After that, the road leading to the airpark is private.

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