Airport Expansion Triggers Neighborhood Turbulence

The expansion of a small private airport is rocking a McKinney neighborhood.

The Aero Country Airport has been a fixture on the north side of Virginia Parkway in McKinney since it was a dirt road some 40 years.

The McKinney City Council has approved development on the east side of the airport's runway that could double its size, adding 45 town homes with plane hangers and 74 additional free-standing hangars.

The airport currently has about 100 planes.

But nearby residents said they oppose the expansion plans.

Homeowner Jennifer Conway said more flying also means more potential for a crash.

"They're supposed to go over the fairways, and they don't," she said. "They come right over the houses, and they cut across, and again, that's a big safety concern -- something is going to happen," she said.

But pilots said most of them will only fly three to four hours per month.

"I think in the 15 years I've been here, I can only remember one real bad accident," said B.J. Boyle, a pilot who also builds planes at the airport.

Pilots also say homeowners knew they would be neighbors with an airport when they decided to move there.

Barry Goukler said he took the existing airport into consideration when he bought a home three years ago in the golf course subdivision on the south side of Virginia Parkway.

"We can put up with the current planes," he said.

The City Council said it announced hearings about the development plans months before it approved the expansion.

"We had almost no opposition to it at the time," Mayor Pro Tem Pete Huff said.

But residents said they never knew about any of the meetings.

Homeowners who have red beacons mounted on their chimneys to help guide pilots away from homes and toward the runway said information about the expansion was not given to them or the Federal Aviation Administration.

Several homeowners said they will move if the city doesn't not halt the expansion.

"There may be a few defectors, and I wish them well if that's their choice, but there will be people who settle in McKinney," Huff said. "It's a great town. This (airport) is part of it."

But efforts to fight the development may be grounded before they start.

Because the City Council already approved the expansion, by law, it cannot reverse the decision.

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