What Charlotte airport bill means to Union County

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 04:16 PM

The N.C. Senate passed a bill that would create a Charlotte Regional Airport Authority to oversee the Charlotte-Douglas Airport in Charlotte. 

The bill passed 32-18 on Wednesday and has moved to the House.

The authority would consist of 13 members, including a registered voter of Union County who would be appointed by the Union County Board of Commissioners. 

Senator Tommy Tucker, R-35, voted for the bill. 

"It's a local bill and generally we vote for local bills for each legislator there," Tucker said. "In a regional aiport authority...our area may have more say-so."

Tucker added that Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh are already run by regional authorities.

"It has regional ramifications," Tucker said. 

He added that the city of Charlotte is not "intimately involved" in the airport.

"Currently they have an assistant city manager that the airport (director) reports to," Tucker said. "With a regional airport authority you can have people from all the regions who have expertise...their goal would be focused totally on the airport. That I feel like is a better model than being part-time run by the city and totally run by the director of the airport." 

Other members of the board include two registered voters of Charlotte, one appointed by the mayor and the other appointed by city council; a registered voter of Mecklenburg County, appointed by the Mecklenburg County commissioners; a registered voter of Cabarrus County, appointed by the Cabarrus County commissioners; a registered voter of Gaston County, appointed by the Gaston County commissioners; a registered voter of Iredell County, appointed by the Iredell County commissioners; a registered voter of Lincoln County, appointed by the Lincoln County commissioners; three registered voters of North Carolina, appointed by the governor, the General Assembly by recommendation of the speaker of the house and the General Assembly by recommendation of the president pro tempore of the senate and two at-large members who will be voted on by a majority of the 11 members.

If established, the regional authority would take control of the airport from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. They would have the power to collect and levy fees, purchase property, make all reasonable rules and regulations, purchase insurance, sue and be sued, lease or sell any property, own and operate any retail facilities in the airport, employ and compensate the airport director–who will serve at the pleasure of the authority– and other responsibilities.

Some have alleged that the move is a "power grab" by Raleigh, a claim Tucker denied. 

"Nothing's changing other than the management of the airport," Tucker said. "It's not a power grab, nothing's going to change there...except that we have a regional authority to run the airport."

He compared the proposed authority to the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MUMPO. 

Gov. Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte, has not weighed in on the proposal, only to say that he thinks the process should slow down. Because it is local legislation, it does not require the governor's signature to become law. 

"I think this will be a better business model long-term for the airport than the way it's being run now," Tucker said. "It will be more focus with this regional airport authority than right now." 

Executive Director of Economic Development and Aviation Chris Platé could not be reached before press time.