Chesterfield County to exercise eminent domain for airport expansion

Chesterfield County
Chesterfield County Airport expansion

Residents of the Five Forks Village and Cascade Creek Communities in Chesterfield County are speaking out against plans to expand the Chesterfield County Airport, a move that they fear could encroach on community property and disrupt outdoor activities. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved unanimously a motion to exercise eminent domain for certain property rights to allow for the expansion of the runway at Chesterfield County Airport.

The vote followed a public hearing at the Board’s July 28 meeting.

“Staff and our consultant have been working with the property owners and have been unable to reach an agreement with all of them,” Real Property Manager Dean Sasek said. “We will continue to work with the property owners in order to reach an agreement.”

According to the agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting, the acquisition of avigation easements, restricted land use easements and a Dominion Energy power easement are needed to accommodate the current and future family of critical aircraft operations at the airport.

“An avigation easement is, primarily, we’re buying the easement for rights for above the property at certain airspace usage,” Al Pace said, presenting with Sasek. “Usually, avigation easement will require trimming of trees or [something] of that nature that will penetrate that easement area.”

There are several property owners involved in this process, including the Five Forks Village Community Association, Cascade Creek Homes, Fair Havens Church and Trustees of New Jerusalem International Christian Ministries. 8News spoke with the attorney representing the Five Forks Village Homeowners Association, Steve Clarke, who said that residents are concerned about the disruptions that would come from having aircraft fly lower, and potentially more often.

But Matoaca District Supervisor Kevin Carroll wanted to make clear the distinction for what the county is doing in exercising eminent domain.

“I think when people hear the words ’eminent domain’ and that we’re taking someone’s property, that means that we’re going to actually take someone’s property,” Carroll said. “In this case, we’re going to be utilizing easements over someone’s property, more or less restricting some of the uses on it, but not actually taking it. We’re not extending the runway over there. It’s more about the ability for flights to land and take off.”

The avigation easement will allow the county to clear some airspace by either taking down trees or cutting them to be shorter so that there is more clearance for aircrafts to fly overhead.

The Board of Supervisors’ Wednesday approval also included that of restrictive land use in communities near the airport.

“The ones that are restrictive land use, predominantly where that is, is we do not want gatherings of large amounts of people, we don’t want construction on the easement we would procure,” Pace said. “It would pretty much stay untouched, mowed grass, but would not allow for a congregation to meet on that property or on the restricted land use.”

The airport master plan notes that the family of critical aircraft is comprised of medium-sized business jets similar to the Hawker 800, Challenger 604 and Gulfstream 200. According to Airport Manager Jeremy Wilkinson, the operational requirements of these aircraft, particularly during inclement weather, require an extension of the runway for optimal safety and efficiency.

With approval to exercise eminent domain in this case, a Chesterfield County spokesperson told 8News that there are plans to extend the runway at the airport from 5,500 feet to 6,300 feet and that the estimated timeline for construction is 2024.

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