Officials with DeKalb Peachtree Airport are asking the city of Chamblee to allow them to skirt required streetscape designs should it decide to build eight new corporate hangars, a new fire department building and other infrastructure on 19 acres of its southernmost property.
News of such a potential expansion near the Brookhaven border is putting residents living near the airport once again on edge as they worry about more trees being cut down, eliminating a long-standing sound between the state’s second busiest airport and Clairmont Road. Environmental concerns and increased air traffic are other concerns being raised.
Brookhaven City Councilmember John Park, who lives in Ashford Park near the airport, said he has been hearing from many constituents concerned about how any potential expansions at the airport could affect their quality of life. But, he said, there is little the city of Brookhaven can do.
PDK Airport’s 765 acres are located in Chamblee, so all zoning requests must be approved by the city. The airport is county-owned and governed by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.
“I have as much influence as any other citizen in the neighborhood,” Park said.
Park said he and others are still upset by Chamblee’s decision about seven years ago to rezone the southern portion of PDK Airport from residential to airport industrial. The residential zoning approved by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners two decades ago was intended to keep the area a green space and a buffer, he said.
“We [Brookhaven] could pass resolution condemning [the rezoning], but I don’t want Chamblee interfering in our zoning,” Park said. “That’s Chamblee’s zoning. The FAA, DeKalb County and Chamblee are the authorities on this.”
A DeKalb County spokesperson said the property could not remain residential because FAA funds were used to purchase the acreage. The FAA requires property purchased using its money be used for aeronautical use.
Michael Baker International, an aviation consultant, filed the variance request on behalf of PDK Airport with Chamblee in May as part of what it calls the Southwest Quadrant Development project.
The project would include the hangars, new taxi lanes and aprons for aircraft to drive on and park, and a fire department building. There are currently no definitive plans to build the hangars or other services.
The Southwest Quadrant Development property includes land east of Clairmont Road and between Bragg Street and West Hardee Avenue near the Brookhaven border. Nearby neighborhoods include Ashford Park and Drew Valley.
Michael Baker International is also currently working with PDK Airport on its new master plan now underway and slated to be finished in July 2020.
The master plan includes determining land use plans at the airport and the surrounding property.
The 19 acres of the Southwest Quadrant Development project are where approximately 9 acres of trees were cut down in 2017-2018 as part of the construction of the FAA-mandated $10 million Engineered Material Arresting System, or EMAS, at the south end of the runway.
To build the new hangars and other proposed infrastructure would require cutting down the remaining 10 acres. Landscaping would be completed with 40-foot-wide tree buffers.
“PDK is still in the planning stage and no decision has been made on the additional hangars, but PDK has seen a need for more hangars based on requests from corporate entities,” a DeKalb County spokesperson said in a written statement.
There are currently 27 corporate hangars at PDK Airport and tenants include Waffle House, Signature Flight Support and Epps Air Service, according to the county.
Of the airport’s $14.8 million budget in 2018, $3.6 million was collected from corporate tenants as well as T-hangar tenants (smaller hangars) and fixed-base operators, or private jet services, as well as other aircraft rental spaces.
The FAA predicts air traffic to increase at PDK Airport over the next 20 years according to data compiled for the master plan. For example, 39,729 jet operations (landings and departures) were recorded at PDK Airport in 2018. That number is expected to jump to 64,125 in 2040.
There were 95,688 piston aircraft operations recorded in 2018; by 2040 that number is expected to be 119,485. Helicopter operations are expected to rise from 9,512 operations in 2018 to 14,084 in 2040. Turboprop aircraft operations are expected to increase from 14,564 in 2018 to 21,103 in 2040.
Overall, aircraft operations are predicted to soar from 159,493 in 2018 to 218,797 in 2040.
More information and upcoming meetings
Who: PDK Airport Advisory Board
What: Discussion of PDK Airport variance requests, proposal for new corporate hangars
When: June 10, 7 p.m.
Where: Conference Room 227, DeKalb Peachtree Airport Administration Building, 2000 Airport Road, Atlanta, GA 30341.
What: Master plan open house
When: July 17, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Chamblee Civic Center, 3540 Broad St, Chamblee, GA 30341.