Read story in The News & Advance...Bedford County’s Technical Review Committee met with representatives from Liberty University on Tuesday morning to discuss guidelines on how the institution could proceed anew with its goal to expand the New London Airport in Forest.
Multiple residents who live near the airport also attended the meeting.
Jordan Mitchell, interim director for community development in Bedford County, said Tuesday Liberty’s original proposal for expansion plans could not move forward and the process must essentially start from scratch.
Mitchell explained that Liberty could seek either "usage expansion" or "structure expansion" at the airport, but not both together, based on former Bedford County Director of Community Development Gregg Zody’s original instruction to Liberty in 2019.
Usage expansion includes changes to the land itself, such as expanding the runway. Structure expansion includes increasing the amount of buildings on airport property.
“The way Zody wrote the letter was that the use or structures could be expanded, but not both. Being that the case, you are expanding the runway, which is usage expansion, and you’re proposing a 150% increase in structures. What I’m saying to you is that’s not a possibility,” Mitchell said.
Dan Deter, vice president of major construction for Liberty University, asked Mitchell if Liberty could break down the project into smaller jobs to comply with the 50% expansion parameters, postponing any immediate rezoning and special use permit needs.
Mitchell said that might be a possibility, should Liberty create a new proposal.
“If you want to pare back one, and do a combination of both, I think that’s probably doable,” Mitchell said.
Liberty may work with Mitchell and the county to calculate how much could be done at New London Airport while remaining in the 50% expansion limit.
Deter said Liberty is still actively pursuing expansion of the airport, and through Tuesday's meeting he received some guidelines to get the ball rolling. Runway expansion, he said, is a priority, primarily for safety reasons.
Several residents who live near the New London Airport voiced concerns over lack of transparency and communication between Liberty University, county officials, and residents who may be impacted by the airport expansion throughout the process.
“People don’t know [what’s going on]. People need to be informed,” said Ellissa Bowen, of Forest, during a public comment period at the Bedford County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night. Bowen said she wants her community to have representation through this process.
Lisa Hawkins, also a Forest resident, echoed the concern over lack of transparency. She also said she would like to see Liberty University be required to produce a 20-year airport master plan, like other universities such as Ohio State have, that is made freely available to the public. An airport master plan would include clarifications on operations, expansion plans and timelines, types of aircraft and related information.