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Port seeking consultant for South Whidbey airport study

Whether or not Whidbey Airpark near Langley has a future as a publicly-owned, general aviation airport for commercial, private and emergency flights hasn’t been answered yet.

But Port of South Whidbey commissioners continue to ask the question.

The port has requested a “statement of qualifications” from consultants interested in conducting a study on the merits of turning the privately-owned airfield off Crawford Road in Langley into a public facility.

Money for the proposed study has been authorized by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The state will contribute $28,500, while the port’s share is $1,500.

Port officials have said the purchase of industrial property could lead to additional economic development on the South End if the port buys and then leases property to private companies.

“If the port were to buy it, the advantages include its use as an emergency-response airfield and a transportation alternative for the future,” said Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert.

“It makes a lot of strategic sense, especially as a way to energize economic development for South Whidbey,” he added.

Tapert has long been a proponent of purchasing property which could lead to additional economic development on the South End if the port buys and then leases land to private companies for commercial or light- industrial purposes. Tapert also noted there are no publicly-owned airports on the South End, and said the airpark is centrally located within Puget Sound.

He noted that the port’s comprehensive plan requires the port to periodically review the feasibility of buying and operating the airfield, provided it makes economic sense.

“Before we bought the property, we’d have to know the long-term costs of converting it into a usable field that met all state and federal safety requirements,” Tapert said. “Frankly, being able to take a charter flight from here to Bellingham and switch to a regular air carrier has some appeal for people.”

According to an earlier state review, general aviation activity at Whidbey Airpark accounted for nearly 5,000 passengers and visitors in 2006. The 43-acre property is owned by Whidbey Airpark, LLC and is listed for sale for $1,750,000.

The next port meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the Freeland Library.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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