In Hilton Head, Airport A Pivotal Issue

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Sometimes an airport is more than just an airport, and in Hilton Head, S.C., it has become a symbol of the island town's future -- will historic buildings and neighborhoods and trees be preserved, or will the needs of business and growth and tourism prevail? The town, aligning itself with longtime residents, has voted to restrict any expansion of the airport without town approval. But the business community protests that if the runway can't be lengthened, celebrities, golfers and wealthy homeowners who want to fly bigger airplanes will simply find somewhere else to go and spend their money. Any expansion of the runway would affect a nearby 122-year-old church that is a popular community gathering place. "I don't think they're thinking of the value people have placed in this church," Charles Young III, president of a local property owners group, told the Island Packet. "We've got people down there that have (had) property for generations and generations." Newcomers to the island "just don't seem to care," he said. "They have a lot of money and they can spend it to get what they want." Other citizens have formed a group to support the business community's push to improve the airport, and they are working for a change of leadership in the town's next election. They will have to be patient, though, since the next vote won't be until 2010.