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Community Maps Out Air Base Plans With, Without Airport

Hundreds turn out for the first day of a two-day community planning charrette at Horsham community center.

More than 500 area residents tried their hand at planning the future of , adding color-coded dots to maps both including and excluding an airport.

The community—predominantly Horsham residents—came out en masse Friday afternoon and evening during two separate but identical three-hour planning charrettes held at to engage the public in devising potential options for the 892-acre parcel.

The large crowd turnout, in itself, is “rare,” according to Russell Archambault, a consultant hired by Horsham’s Land Reuse Authority to draft a redevelopment plan for the base.

“This is extremely unusual,” Archambault, vice president and principal of , said Friday following the first session, which drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 300 people.

But, unlike most other areas where a military installation is being dissolved and the land is up for grabs, the “communities have concluded that the airport is the driver." 

That is not the case in Horsham, where, upon entering Friday’s meeting, airport opponents from grassroots group No Airport in Horsham handed out literature urging the community to join their cause.

During the breakout sessions, attendees were asked to work collaboratively in small groups to map out plans both with and without an airport. Some residents questioned why an airport should even be considered and why a vote was not taken as to what people really wanted.

“This town has grown up around the base and the base was very respectful,” said Mary Dare, one of the founders of No Airport in Horsham, adding that an airport, unlike the military base, would operate non-stop.

One of the consultants, Kurt Frederick, Weston Solutions senior technical manager, said all options must be analyzed.

“You have to evaluate all reasonable alternatives,” Frederick said. “The airport’s not going to go in there if the community doesn’t want an airport.”

Other residents worried that, since the Department of Defense has to give the final OK following the HLRA’s ultimate redevelopment plan approval, local decisions could be “trumped” by the whims of the federal government.

Archambault said that would only happen “if the town walks away from this,” adding that the military’s highest priority is to “dispose of the land.”

“They don’t care,” Archambault said of the military’s position on the end use. “They care that the land changes hands.”

From the sessions, which produced myriad redevelopment ideas, Archambault said his team would derive a “very generalized view of the world.”

Eventually, the ideas and suggestions made during the two-day planning session will be used in preparing three base reuse alternatives, which RKG Associates plans to present to the HLRA in August.

From that, the HLRA will, sometime prior to December, approve a final redevelopment plan, which must then be submitted to the federal government by year’s end.

For the time being, the community’s underlying preferred redevelopment themes, coupled with Archambault and the rest of the RKG Associates’ interpretations, will lay the foundation for an hour-long presentation Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Horsham community center.

“We start to tie it together in a very generalized bubble diagram,” Archambault said.

Unlike most Horsham Land Reuse Authority meetings, Friday’s gathering was interactive and less about presentations and public comment. The large meeting room in the community center was partitioned off and the gathering was broken into a half dozen groups, each tasked with formulating redevelopment ideas.

Some groups seemed to favor a town center, or a Main Street concept with shops, restaurants and entertainment in one central location.

Others supported an employment center offering research development and high-tech jobs, with a mix of industrial and education centers.

And at least one of the groups present, in total, seemed to favor continued use of the 8,000-foot-long runway.

David Pitcairn, whose great-uncle, aviator Harold Pitcairn, owned the airfield prior to the military, is heading up Save Willow Grove Airfield. With him, he had copies of a four-page brochure asking residents to say “yes” to the airport. Pitcairn said the pamphlets were mailed to Horsham businesses and residents, and signs were made, too, “by popular demand.”

“If the airport doesn’t make sense and the economics aren’t there, that’s one thing,” Pitcairn said. “But trying to short-circuit the process ... isn’t fair.”

Unlike many of the redevelopment options on the table, Pitcairn said an aviation facility could be “running in six months and creating jobs in the area.”

Harold F. Pitcairn II, of Bryn Athyn, the grandson of the 20th century aviator, was also on hand Friday in hopes of preserving the legacy of not only his grandfather, but of early aviation.

Unlike plans on the table from and the to operate an airport out of the base, Harold F. Pitcairn said the other redevelopment plans being considered “require so many things to go right.”

However, some said they feared that by letting an airport operate in Horsham at all it would open the door to FedEx carriers or a facility in the vein of Philadelphia International Airport.

Frederick said that by shortening the runway, the likelihood of bigger planes flying in and out would be dramatically lessened.

“Trends show no need for commercial,” he said.

But, Horsham resident Janice Blades wasn’t buying it and said trends could change.

“What power do we have to do anything?” Blades asked.

While most either seemed to have strong feelings for or against an airport, Kay Bachand, a Horsham resident of 50 years, said she was neither for nor against the airport.

“There’s a lot of ideas,” Bachand said. “We need to do right by it for the next 50 years.”

If you go

RKG Associates, consultants for the Horsham Land Reuse Authority, will gather from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Horsham community center to begin reviewing redevelopment concepts that the community outlined today. The public is welcome to attend and ask questions as the team collaborates. Then, from noon to 4 p.m., the consultants will work behind closed doors (without the public) to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to be given from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

john June 20, 2011 at 06:00 PM
An estimated 65% of general aviation flights are conducted for business and public services that need transportation more flexible than the airlines can offer. That flexibility can be a hometown businessman flying his own small airplane to see four clients on a one-day, 700-mile circuit, or it can be a CEO and five staff members working at 30,000 feet while en route to a major meeting.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:00 PM
By scheduled airline, the first could take four days and three hotel bills; the second would be impossible. Like the family automobile, the family airplane (owned or rented) can provide mobility and pleasure, and it’s almost always a more enjoyable trip by air. The family airplane can triple the comfortable range of vacation travel while avoiding the stress and frustrations of heavy traffic. And, of course, the family breadwinners can use the same airplane to great advantage in business by virtue of its speed and flexibility.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:01 PM
A common misconception leads some to think of personal or small business aircraft as only for the extremely wealthy. In fact, many people of middle-class means fly airplanes less costly to acquire than a new family car. And learning to fly general aviation aircraft is well within the capabilities of the average person, intellectually and physically. Even some disabilities – deafness, for instance – need not keep a person who really wants to fly out of the cockpit. General aviation has an excellent and steadily improving safety record. Since the big surge in private and business flying that followed WWII, the total accident rate has decreased more than 85%— down to just seven accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The latest data show general aviation flies more than 20 million hours each year. More than 90% of the roughly 220,000 civil aircraft registered in the United States are general aviation aircraft. And of the nation’s approximately 600,000 pilots, an estimated 500,000+ fly general aviation airplanes. (Incidentally, many airline pilots also fly general aviation aircraft – for pleasure!) The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has approximately 415,000 members. The great fleet of general aviation aircraft is the mainspring of a $20 billion a year industry which generates more than $150 billion in economic activity. Thousands of communities benefit as their airports create a positive ripple effect in the local economy.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Why are all my comments now being removed?
Scott Johnson June 20, 2011 at 06:06 PM
I see them all.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:06 PM
cancell that
john June 20, 2011 at 06:18 PM
More good reading here.... http://www.countyairports.org/Newsletter/SCAN%20Fall%202007%20-%20reduced.pdf those how are into reading.....and being informed more fully: http://www.ok.gov/OAC/documents/General%20Aviation%20Contribution%20to%20the%20US%20Economy%20(GAMA).pdf
john June 20, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Ok, I find this interesting, as it appears to be someone representing the "NO AIRPORT" crowd does not live in Horsham......very interesting to say the least especially since some here have said its a "HORHSAM" only issue" This was found freely and openly on the internet via google search. http://www.noairportinhorsham.org/docs/DennisMulliganLetter.pdf
john June 20, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Corporate airport proposed for Willow Grove Naval Air Station Written by: Keith Phucas, Journal Register News Service NORRISTOWN — Bucks County Airport Authority members floated the idea of developing a corporate airport around the existing runway at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station. The four men presented the idea to the Montgomery County Commissioners at Tuesday’s staff meeting. The informal proposal envisions a general aviation facility run jointly by Bucks and Montgomery counties that would handle corporate jets and private aircraft. No airliners would be permitted. Allen D. Black, the organization’s former chairman, said a good regional airport would be an economic boon to the area and could accomodate larger aircraft during any future disaster. Currently, Wings Field and Doylestown Airport are too small for such commercial or emergency uses.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Well I don't fly as of yet, I am hopefyul someday of getting my license, because I do miss flying so much. I was Navy aircrew at Willow Grove for 12 years. Having been there for 12 years I see so much nenefit for the community and region there and its sad that some are beign very closed minded about this issue.
john June 20, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Please note replublicans who su[pport the airport, you voted for Brown and Castor in office who oppose the airport. If I were you, I'd be contacting them ASAP to voice your displeasure.
Scott Johnson June 20, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Not to derail the conversation much but I was amused when I searched for Brown and Castor, it came up with a press release that they "Oppose a return to the 1967 borders for Israel" What the heck do candidates for commissioner in Montgomery county have to do with that :-p If that's the headlines they are getting you might want to check with Shapiro/Richards and find how where they stand on the issue :-p
john June 20, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Wow....doing a little research on RKG sheds some light.....seems to em they are VERY anti-airport. Take a look at their site and see if you get the same feeling... http://www.rkgassociates.com/
Tara June 20, 2011 at 06:56 PM
I moved to Horsham, Pa in 73' the base was a Military base with an airstrip for Military flights it was not an AIRPORT. The make-up of the HLRA is public knowledge and available on the website. The members are meeting the BRAC requirements. So many from the township it is in and so many from neighboring townships. The comments like "How stupid are people.." , fear mongers, close minded....wow-so anyone that does not agree with your opinion is to be verbally abused and called names. If an airport is to be the savior of the community bucks & montgomery why haven't you been fighting to extend one of those airports in Bucks all these years?
john June 20, 2011 at 07:00 PM
They are not names, they are opinions Mrs. Hallston. The reason I'm sure that those airports have not extended is due to the fact that they as GA airports most likely have deals with the townships not to extend, just as this one would.
Tara June 20, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Even though I am on the opposite side of this from Mr.Pitcairn...I would like to thank HIM for expressing his opinion without name calling, verbal bullying, or insults!
john June 20, 2011 at 10:24 PM
I believe someone had asked why no one was looking to keep the NADC open, and frankly its my understanding that they did not keep NADC open for air operations simply because the existing ramp space and hanger space did not lend itself to what the area and existing building at Willow Grove do. I believe that if Horsham and its officials would put out a figure as to how much Horsham would have to foot to revelope this area, a true honest figure, and then explain how it would be paid for, I think we may have alot of new Save Willow Grove folks on board. I surely hope that they will do this before they decide for all of us in this region for all of our sakes. Frankly,. I am fighting for everyone and not just a selection boro or township. Frankly, financially and tax wise this won't have any initial effect on my area but I do believe it will have carry over effects of my way of life and my wallet.
Tara June 20, 2011 at 10:38 PM
When were you told residential homes was what the Horsham Residents wanted instead of an airport. Which was not an airport when we moved here.
Tara June 20, 2011 at 10:43 PM
"get out of the kitchen" are you telling me that if I don't accept being called names as a form of intimidation then I am not entitled to be on this site? I can't get out of the kitchen John. I reside here in HORSHAM, work in HORSHAM, my kids attend schools in HORSHAM.
john June 20, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Mrs. Hallston, I will not argue symantics with you about what is and isn't an airport. Secondly, please show me where I called "you" any name of any kind. You may live in Horsham, but I use Horsham on a daily basis so I too have a say whether you like it or not. The kitchen I am referring to is the kitchen of discussion Mrs. Hallston. If you wanna play the intimidation card go for it because you will fail. I am putting out facts and you just don't like it.
Mike Shortall Sr June 20, 2011 at 11:11 PM
@David Pitcairn ... The fact that the airport would be required to be open on a "restricted" basis offers me no peace on that issue. My frequently expressed concern is not what is promised or controlled now, as all our pro-airport opponents readily testify the initial operation at JRB WG would be "limited" and relatively unintrusive; it's more about what MIGHT FOLLOW in years down the road. Have you run into many airports that DO NOT at some point expand? That's my issue. And john's right, ceding "control" to the no-airport people does not promise control over the future. I'm curious as to how someone can "annoint" a citizen group control over a "regional asset", to which you guys are so fond of referring. I'm curious as to who made this "offer". Did they even have the authority to make such an offer? Since NO ONE but the Horsham LRA controls the future of JRB-WG at this point, I find it rather puzzling as to WHO would be in the position to make such an offer! But no, that's not enough for me, because I generally do not trust "regional interests" in this situation. To me the only reliable, PERMANENT solution is to develop over and around the runway in whatever manner will render it PERMANENTLY unavailable.
Mike Shortall Sr June 21, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Clayton, try to follow along. a) I moved to Horsham in '97. I'm not totally ignorant about military air ops. I work in the industry. b) Anyone could tell NAS/JRB Willow Grove was an airbase slowing going out to pasture. c) It wasn't a commercial/hobby airpark. d) I believe that if you let any air operation exist at JRB-WG the risk of a full commercial air operation at some point is VERY HIGH. e) You can't compare sleepy, going-out-to-pasture JRB-WG with what I believe WILL HAPPEN eventually with a commercial, dollar-driven airport in a region of the country choked with commercial air transportation. f) Airport = lower property values (unless of course you have a business property) It's really not that hard to follow that argument, is it?!?
David Pitcairn July 23, 2011 at 04:30 AM
Carol, That link is to an article talking about "Major airport" and then it references Chicago O'hare. Horsham Township can control the airport if they chose to by having the right to appoint people to the airport authority, that they know will keep the airport from expanding. I believe there are many other reasons the airport would not be able to or need to expand however in the end, there are ways for Horsham to control the airport. Not choosing to do this is analogous to a car passenger claiming to have no control over where or how the car is driven even though they were offered or could have asked to drive. Sharing information about Chicago O'hare with double the number of flights as Philly International is interesting but not demonstrably relevant to what has been proposed in Horsham.
Rose July 23, 2011 at 02:00 PM
john 1st of all, your comments should be deleted. 2nd of all, you are not a Citizen or a RESIDENT. Thirdly, you have not shown any benefits of an airport to RESIDENTS. Furthermore YOU SIR should not only get out of the kitchen,You should get out of the HOUSE. If you want to fly, then rejoin the navy as a PILOT. (you won't pass the test) RESIDENTS are 10-1 against the airport, so you are wasting you time, this is a Horsham ONLY issue.
Mott1 July 23, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Hi Rose. I am a Horsham resident and respect the fact that you are too. Could you let me know where you read or saw that Horsham residents are 10-1 against the airport? To my knowledge the only poll I have ever seen on this topic was in Phillyburbs.com The poll asked the question asked if the runway should be closed after the military leaves? The results were No: 77% Yes 23%. Most opposed to the airport will cite that others from surrounding communities voted no. They are probably correct because to me this a regional issue. The airbase borders Bucks County and I am sure the direct airport and indirect airport jobs the airport will create will draw from the human resources from our region. An example of a a regional benefit most recently is the 202 bypass project. It is not in Horsham but does span multiple townships in Montgomery and Bucks county and will benefit the region. Even though it is not in my township I should still have a right to have a say on the matter. I do respect your position. Just wanted to see if I could learn more about the 10-1 comment you made and if there info on this please let me know so I can educate myself as well. In the meantime....stay cool!
john July 24, 2011 at 04:10 AM
Hi ROSE!!! Hey just read your very informative note and I must say, I really need to know where this poll is because if its true....by god we are fighting a loosing battle here. but in the meantime let me first say you have no clue who I am, and you have no clue of any of my military experiences, so please make sure if you are going to insult someone and the service to this country,...you know what it is your are talking about. Secondly, if you take a good look at the "NO AIRPORT IN HORSHAM" facebook page they OPENLY are recruiting people from all over the area and not just in Horsham. Go take a look dear...its there. Also while you are there, maybe you might want to see how they do no allow for public comment as the "YES AIRPORT" openly encourages lively and rational debate. I have a feeling thats not something you would be able to do from your note here. As for cencorship of ANYONE's notes, unless it is a violation of the site policy, or endangers someone...should never be deleted. We do live in a free country whether you and your liberal tree hugging friends like it or not.....the facts if looked at fairly and openly show that the airport is the best option for our community and REGION!!!!! good night!
Carol Inman July 26, 2011 at 04:44 PM
I still have fundamental Qs about how many jobs the airport would create. I don't see any #s from the pro-airport side, just reassurances. Trickle down economics has not worked. I question how long airports are a viable industry if they serve corporations and individuals, especially with the price of fuel, it seems to me that an airport such as proposed by Pitcairn et al. is a dinosaur of an idea. I agree the Base is a regional asset and that the potential for the creation of new jobs is huge, but I just don't think a general aviation airport is a viable longterm idea. Business today is electronic; it's much cheaper to transport goods by train. The Q of airport or not has torn this community apart. I think if an airport is installed, the resentment factor will take a generation to heal. Isn't there some other industry or idea that doesn't pollute, cause noise, and brings jobs?
David Pitcairn July 26, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Carol, Are there #s from the no airport side? I have not seen any. That is a good reason to keep them both in the running until this information is known for both plans. Look at the www.savewillowgrove.org home page and download the Initial Aviation Feasibility Study from the BCAA. It does not include the financial benefit of attracting businesses that need to be near the airport or what would happen with a bit less than half the base that would still be available for other uses if a business airpark is not selected, however, it may answer some of your questions. I find it to be informative. Not sure how to avoid having the community torn apart when there are people in Horsham that feel strongly both ways. Resentment is inevitable (airport or not) however it was the no airport campaign that has escalated the situation (and future resentment level) and caused the response from myself and a great group of Horsham Residents, some of whom you know, who started Save Willow Grove Airfield to counter the mis-information, answer questions, and show that this is not a one-sided issue in Horsham.
Mark July 26, 2011 at 08:28 PM
No one could say with significant certainty what the true ratio is for those who favor keeping the runway versus those who oppose. Citing opinion from a website, or from a community meeting, or following a discussion with neighbors is not all that scientific. We all know that these numbers depend on (1) who had the better petition campaign, (2) who had the loudest voice, or (3) who lives closest to the base. Something I can not ignore is that when ex-Gov. Rendell’s plans for a JII were still in full swing, bi-partisan agreements to restrict commercial, cargo, and private use of the runway were passed in both houses (House Bill 111 and Senate Bill 82.) If I can assume that their authors were “representing” the best interests of the majority of their constituency, then I must conclude that most residents of the local community would oppose the concept of a GA airport in Horsham. That being said, it would be great if Horsham Township would conduct an official poll of the matter with township residents. While I recognize that either decision will directly or indirectly affect the region at large, I feel that Horsham residents, in particular, would have no choice but to cope with the negative impacts that either option can bring...be it noise, pollution, higher taxes, traffic jams, etc.
Carol Inman July 26, 2011 at 10:17 PM
@David: I appreciate what you are trying to do, but that Feasibility Study is a zip file, quite large for a normal computer to download and very lengthy for anyone to read. How about giving us an Executive Summary? How many permanent jobs will be directly (not indirectly b/c that's speculative) created by the savewillowgrove proposal? If you took an airport out of the equation, and invested instead in an industry with a viable future that employed many people, you would not have all this resentment. @Rose, John, Mark and Mott: One way to figure the equation: Savewillowgrove has 325 "likes," and many of these "friends" are not residents affected by any decision made to reuse the Base. NoairportinHorsham has at LEAST 1400 signatures, and the vast majority of these you can bet are residents.

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