ANNAPOLIS -- A long controversy surrounding the only private airport near Annapolis apparently was resolved last week when airport owners and surrounding communities signed an agreement to restrict the number of takeoffs and landings, move planes farther from nearby houses and build a landscaped buffer to dull the engine noise.
As part of the Lee Airport agreement, Anne Arundel County Executive James Lighthizer said he will ask the County Council for money to conduct a study of the county's long-range private aviation needs. According to airport operators, county officials and Annapolis-area business groups, the 35-year-old airport that is home to 150 small planes is no longer large enough to handle all the small private planes that want to land near Annapolis.
Negotiations between owners of Lee Airport, located on Rte. 2 three miles south of Annapolis in Edgewater, began last summer after residents complained that the airport had violated zoning laws and was illegally storing 60 planes next to their back yards. The excess planes caused increased noise and safety problems, they said.
In August, a county zoning hearing officer agreed with the complaints and ordered the 60 planes moved. Florence C. Parlett and her family, who operate the airport as a business on private land, moved 13 of the planes, arguing they had nowhere else to put the rest of them. The county responded by filing suit against the Parletts.
The agreement reached last week still needs to be approved by the county's Board of Zoning Appeals, which has scheduled a hearing for May.
Under the agreement, the airport operators agreed to:
Allow no more than 150 aircraft to be based at the airport, and to reduce that number to 140 as leases expire. Allow no more than 15 spaces for transient planes.
Allow no planes to park within 200 feet of neighboring property.
Allow no more than 10 planes operated by flying schools and forbid "touch-and-go" practice landings and immediate takeoffs.
Surround the airport with a six-foot fence, and shield hangers behind fences, bushes and trees.
Shorten the runway so that airplanes land farther from houses, and improve landing safety by trimming trees at each end of the runway and installing a lighting system.