RALEIGH The legislative move to transfer control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport to an independent authority slowed Tuesday when the chief N.C. House sponsor of the bill said he would not seek a vote until the City Council has a chance to study the change.
Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican, laid out his case for transfer away from city control at a House committee hearing for the first time Tuesday, pitching it as part of a statewide economic development project that would make the city a transportation hub for the East Coast.
City leaders have vigorously opposed the bill, and have launched a $150,000 consultant’s study on the airport’s current governance and how similar airports are run. Brawley had initially said the House would proceed with the bill and might finish before the city’s study is complete. The state Senate passed its version of the bill in mid-March.
Brawley said Tuesday that city leaders would have a chance to “publish and defend” their study. But he said the city consultants’ findings might not carry much weight because of who hired them.
Rep. Becky Carney is a Charlotte Democrat who serves on the House transportation committee with Brawley, and her husband recently retired as an assistant Charlotte airport director. She said she was glad to wait for the study to be completed, and expressed concern about transferring such a large operation so quickly.
Key questions still must be answered, she said, including whether the city would be compensated for airport assets and what would happen with current airport employees.
Brawley also pledged to remove language from the airport authority bill that implied that smaller cities’ airports and airfields could come under the control of a Charlotte regional airport authority. Several representatives in the Tuesday hearing from areas around Charlotte said they were concerned about the issue.
The bill’s beginnings
The House committee was not asked to vote on the bill Tuesday. Brawley said he knows some members of the committee have already been lobbied on the bill, and wanted to explain its origin.
He said discussions originated during the planning of a $92 million rail cargo transfer station now under way at the airport. It aims to funnel billions of dollars worth of business heading from sea ports through the region.
Brawley said that as the airport transitions from a “nice facility for people to fly in to Charlotte” to a “key transportation nexus” for the East Coast, the airport needed forward-thinking professional management that represents the region.
With the authority, neighboring towns affected by the airport will have the ability to influence its operations beyond lobbying the City Council, Brawley said.
Dunn: 704-358-5235; Twitter: @andrew_dunn
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less