PDK airport board calls anti-growth petition ‘misinformation’

June 10, 2019 Atlanta: A plane departs at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on Monday, June 10, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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June 10, 2019 Atlanta: A plane departs at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on Monday, June 10, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The board in charge of Georgia’s second-busiest airport tried to refute claims made in a petition to stop the airport’s growth plans.

The DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, commonly called “PDK” after its official FAA designation, is close to finalizing its master plan, which details its next 20 years of growth and operations. The airport’s advisory committee met Monday for an update on the plan’s progress, but much of the meeting was spent discussing opposition from the airport’s neighborhoods, who have a petition with more than 1,600 signatures.

The petition claims the airport’s master plan would lead to a dramatic expansion, increasing the number of flights to record numbers while creating more noise and pollution. The advisory board refuted that the airport has any expansion plans, since the growth would be on property already owned by the airport.

“Just because the airport builds a hangar, that’s not expansion,” Mario Evans, the airport’s director, said. “Airport expansion would include extending runways, buying land to develop but we already sit on 730 acres. We are just maximizing the land that we currently have.”

Located near neighborhoods in Brookhaven and Chamblee, PDK airport has about 158,000 flight operations in 2021, a 14% increase from 2020. Airport traffic dropped off due to the COVID-19 pandemic but rebounded last year.

PDK airport traffic
At the DeKalb County airport, fewer flights took off in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
SOURCE: PDK data

Airport officials predict a 37% increase in takeoffs and landings by 2040, requiring new hangars, a renovated administrative building and several other maintenance projects. PDK mostly does not service commercial passenger flights and is instead used for smaller planes and private jets. It’s the 11th busiest airport in the country for corporate jets.

“Adding so many more PDK-based aircraft will significantly increase the numbers of disruptive flights over residential neighborhoods,” the petition reads. “... This historic expansion of facilities should not be included in the Master Plan.”

Evans argued the additional hangars would slightly reduce the number of daily flights, since it would allow for more airplanes to be stored on site. The other board members agreed, calling many of the petition’s claims false.

“I’ve been really disappointed in the misinformation that’s on social media right now,” Douglas Miller, a board member, said. “I just don’t like people getting riled up over something when they’re passing on information that just is not true.”

ExploreFinal public meeting on PDK airport’s growth plans focus on noise, pollution

The petition also considers the use of a 15-acre plot of land, which was the subject of a buy-out in the 1990s, to be expansion. However, the advisory board disagrees.

“The airport is expanding. The airport is expanding,” Larry Scheinplug, the board’s chairman, said, mimicking critics. “Our response has always been we are not moving any fence lines. We are not buying any property. We’re just looking at better utilizing property within the confines of the fence line of the airport.”

During the meeting, the board discussed how many noise complaints the airport received in 2021. Nearly 3,500 complaints were made, with 10 people accounting for 75% of them. The airport launched a mobile app last year to collect complaints.

In total, the airport’s 20-year master plan estimates nearly $79 million worth of upgrades. The board said the latest version of the master plan was presented to the Georgia Department of Transportation at the end of last year, and they plan to meet soon to discuss moving forward.

They anticipate a final vote on the master plan at the next airport advisory board meeting on Feb. 14. More information on the master plan can be found at pdkmasterplan.com.

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