LINCOLNTON – Words mean things. It is the wording, not the intention, of state Senate Bill 81 that has caught the attention of government officials in counties neighboring Mecklenburg County.
The bill, which would establish the Charlotte Regional Airport Authority to oversee the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, passed in the state Senate with a vote of 32-18 on March 13 and is now being discussed in the state House of Representatives.
It includes matters regarding airport facilities in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Union Counties.
“There’s some language in there that would lead you to believe that the newly-created authority would have authority over all the local airports in that jurisdiction,” Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Chairman Alex Patton told The Herald Weekly. “That was not the intention.”
Second 9 of the bill reads, “All rights, powers, and authority given to the counties and/or municipalities by the statutes of North Carolina, which may now be in effect or which may be enacted in the future, relating to the development, operation, maintenance, regulation, and/or control of municipal or other governmental airports, and the regulations of aircraft are hereby vested in the Authority.”
County commissioners are working with the Charlotte Airport Advisory Committee and members of the House to change the wording so it’s “crystal clear” that the new authority would have no control over Lincoln County or its airport, Patton said.
State Representative Jason Saine said in an email that the bill’s original intent was to focus on the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
It does, however, give Lincoln County a seat on the authority’s 13-member board.
“As the destiny of Charlotte-Douglas will most definitely have an impact as to how Lincoln and surrounding counties grow, I felt it was imperative that those counties be included in any bill moving forward that would create a regional authority,” Saine wrote.
Patton said the Lincoln County commissioners support whatever decision is made as long as it’s clear the authority would only oversee commercial airports.
“We support whatever they want to do,” he said. “If that’s the way the General Assembly goes, we would be more than happy to appoint somebody to be on the board. All I’m looking for is for our airport to be protected and not get in the mix of this thing.”
The Lincoln County Airport is located in Iron Station and serves corporations and private pilots.
When the airport manager, Joe Tate, was asked how this would affect his airport, he simply replied, “Zero impact. That’s just Charlotte politics is all that is.”
Not being a politician, Tate was hesitant to comment in more detail on the proposed legislation.
He was confident, however, that Saine, with the help of other representatives, would be able to “clean that language up and make it blacker and whiter as opposed to all grey.”
“I’m not too worried about it,” he said. “It’s going to be whatever it’s going to be.”