Community, Witham Airport At Odds Over Improvement

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The Martin County Commission, influenced by community-developed noise and pollution concerns, more than six months ago voted to stop using a 460-foot section of runway at Witham Field in Stuart, Fla. Unfortunately, in 1998 the FAA approved the runway for extension. And so it is that while the FAA's regional office in Orlando has suggested moving a fence farther from the runway and into a country club to provide a proper safety zone, Dave Shore, president of the Witham Airport Action Majority (WAAM), has suggested pulling a Richard Daley by removing the runway from service whether the FAA likes it or not. Of course, any such action could stop the flow of federal funds for the airport or even trigger a federally imposed fine for the local community. Meanwhile, the FAA -- which has given the airport thousands of dollars in grants, including money to buy noise-affected homes -- hasn't spoken up and pilots are still using whatever runway space they need (or prefer). Some portion of the local population has apparently risen to protest use of the runway by picketing county commission meetings, but so too have airport businesses and users stepped forward in support of the runway's full length.