County bars commercial airlines from Opa-locka Airport
By Charlotte Libov
Airlines will be barred from Opa-locka Airport, the Miami-Dade County Commission decided unanimously Tuesday, but retail stores, offices and manufacturing will be allowed there in a zoning change that greatly broadens allowed uses.
The zoning approval ushers in development at the airport, which boasts one of the nation's longest runways.
The commission's vote, which welcomes private and corporate jets, aviation companies and flying clubs, came on the recommendation of the Opa-locka Airport Development Task Force, formed to advise the commission on how to best develop the airport in the coming years, Commissioner Barbara Jordan said.
"I'm glad to see it go through. It is important for the economic development of the community," Ms. Jordan said after the vote.
She said the vote will allow non-commercial aviation uses such as hotels and retail stores that had been restricted until now.
A few years ago, she said, there was a move for commercial aircraft to use the airport, "but the communities felt that would infringe on the noise levels, and we agreed."
Commissioner Natacha Seijas seconded the item.
"We are not bringing in commercial uses," Ms. Seijas said, noting that parachuting had been eliminated from the measure.
Several commissioners voiced concern that the zoning change might open the way for opposition, as the move to bring in commercial aircraft had earlier.
Ms. Jordan acknowledged there was no guarantee that there would be no opposition, but she said there had been wide community representation on the task force and "they overwhelmingly support the resolution."
At the meeting, Stephen Beatus, an executive vice president of the Beacon Council, the county's economic development organization, who earlier in his career was in charge of United Airlines' operations here, spoke in favor of the measure.
"We are targeting labor-intensive industries," he said. "We are confident we will be able to bring more industry and work to the area."
Allowed uses include a terminal area for general aviation passenger traffic, including private or corporate aircraft, offices, personal services, retail activities, restaurants, rental cars and lodging establishments.
Educational aviation facilities, such as flight schools, simulator training facilities, helicopter and aerobatics training will also be allowed.
In addition, non-aviation uses may be allowed in the landside area of the airport, which is accessible to the public. These include hotels and motels, office buildings, industrial, manufacturing and agricultural facilities, and retail, restaurants and personal service establishments.