Editorial: Finally a crack in Westerly State Airport discussions

Editorial: Finally a crack in Westerly State Airport discussions

The Westerly Sun

Well this latest chapter in the Westerly Airport saga appears to be one of the better installments. After much debate that appeared to include options that were either black or white, we now have some gray introduced to the discussion. Life is often gray, so we see this as a good turn of events.

A meeting between Town Manager Derrik Kennedy and officials from the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, the quasi public agency responsible for all state airport operations, yielded options that sound workable for the airport and residential neighbors.

Perhaps the biggest result to come from the meeting was the RIAC team agreeing to back off what appeared to be a definite need to provide — or restore — instrument landing abilities at Westerly Airport. To provide this type of landing, RIAC had insisted that certain trees on private land had to be taken down. And they claimed they had the power and blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration behind them to make it happen. They went so far as to use the eminent domain process in an effort to gain access to private property and remove trees from yards.

The filing of a lawsuit by neighbors and the resulting court injunction issued in February put that on hold. And it apparently gave rise to RIAC getting tired of pushing this issue. They eventually asked town leaders what they wanted to see at the airport — and they included the option of closing it, perhaps as a threat to energize pilots and the greater aviation community — which led to the meeting with Kennedy.

Now, RIAC is willing to give up on cutting property owners’ trees and therefore the ability to offer instrument landings at night and in inclement weather. This could be revived at a later time or RIAC could go the official route and ask the FAA to take this ability away forever.

Another option is to continue with plans to remove the trees by trying to follow through on eminent domain procedure.

We like the first option and it seems more in keeping with the type of airport a small town like Westerly needs and should have. Parochial New England thinking sometimes makes us forget about other services not all that far away.


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