Leesburg Debating Changes to Airport Commission
After Mayor Kelly Burk proposed sweeping changes to the Leesburg Airport Commission, members of the Commission have appealed to the Town Council to defer the action until after a town plan re-write has been completed. Mayor Burk wants to include non-voting representation on the commission that would include people from the airport’s two fixed-base operators and its four flight schools along with removing some of the commission’s existing powers.
Following a special meeting of the commissioners January 20, a letter was sent to Town Council requesting no action be taken at today’s work session.
The letter, in part, reads: “The consensus of the Commission is that, based on a multi-decade track record of the Airport Commission working harmoniously with the Council and Staff, additional time and resources, as well as public input, are needed in order to properly address these proposed changes. Historically, the Commission has worked successfully to grow and develop the airport, so major changes should be carefully studied to elaborate on the purpose for the changes, the problems that changes are focused on, and how these changes will affect the businesses and customers of the airport. It is also the sense of the Commission that changes should be made in consonance with the upcoming Town Plan, taking into consideration the Town’s desires for the appropriate roles of all Commissions in the future.”
Commissioners suggested a working group be formed that would include members of the Town Council, Airport Commission, and the staff. The proposed working group would gather input from members of the airport, business and residential communities; provide opportunities for business stakeholders at the airport to have input; and research the applicability of an independent airport authority. The group would then report back to the full council with its recommendations.
Regarding the idea of creating an airport authority – an independent entity that would be responsible for overseeing the airport – the commissioners said they shared Mayor Burk’s curiosity about whether that would be the best move for the municipal airport. “As the airport grows, and additional developments are considered, a closer study of the benefits and costs of an independent airport authority is in the Town’s best interest and should be completed before making any changes to the current [commission] structure,” the letter said.