Neighbors fighting changes around the Rock Hill/York County Airport seized one of their final protest opportunities last week, imploring a city planning board to halt land rules they fear will drive down their home values.
But after nearly three hours of haggling, the proposal for an airport overlay district, or AOD, continued its march toward approval. Planning commissioners voted Tuesday night to recommend it to the Rock Hill City Council.
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The City Council is expected to take the first of two votes on the AOD proposal at its Sept. 8 meeting.
Tuesday night, planning commissioner Harold Peeples and others listened to neighbors make a series of familiar arguments. Many of those arguments came in the form of emotional pleas. “We all want to stay there,” said homeowner Dean Archer. “We all want to live happy. But it's too late. You need to stop this AOD now.”
At least one surprise player joined the debate, but not on the side of the opposition. York County Councilman Curwood Chappell showed up to counter that Rock Hill needs a viable airport to prosper.
“I've flown all around this state in the last 60 years,” said Chappell, a pilot since World War II. “When I land on a dirt strip, there's no jobs, slow growth, a high rate of unemployment. My experience is that if a creek doesn't run, it stagnates. So it is with the city of Rock Hill.”
It marked one of the few occasions that Chappell found himself in agreement with York County Regional Chamber of Commerce officials and local developers such as Skip Tuttle, each of whom shared similar sentiments. Chamber board members formally endorsed the proposal last week.
The new rules aim to protect land around the airport, where local officials are pursuing a 1,000-foot runway extension in hopes of luring more corporate jet traffic. Neighbors view the rules as a major step toward a bigger airport – and the disruptions that would come with it.
Federal dollars are more readily available to airports where land restrictions have been imposed.
Neighbors are expected to speak again in protest at the Sept. 8 City Council meeting. The city and county have signaled intentions to move ahead.