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News Article - November 14, 2010

AIRPORT EXPANSION PLAN PANICS A TINICUM NEIGHBORHOOD  
By Anthony R. Wood
Inquirer Staff Writer

  Having Philadelphia International Airport next door has made the Lester neighborhood of Tinicum Township, Delaware County, a peaceful place in the experience of Hank Hox, who has lived there for 25 years. Roaring jets tend to quell potentially heated discussions. "I can't argue with you with a plane going over," said Hox, 69, "so I would shut up, and that would give me a chance to think." But now, his peaceful neighborhood is in a loud dispute with the airport and finds itself in a fight for its life.

   Under the Federal Aviation Administration's plans to expand the airport, his house is one of 72 that would be demolished. The township would lose 80 businesses, and tax generators would be replaced with a fresh supply of tax-exempt property. A final decision is due next month. "It's just a shameless pillage and encroachment into our community," Dave McCann, head of Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco, said Saturday at the group's standing-room-only meeting at the township building, directly across from Colonial Airport Parking.

   The FAA says the airport is contributing to flight delays all over the country and needs a major fix. The plan would add a runway near the Delaware River and expand the terminal complex. It also could mean losses of $2 million in revenue for the Interboro School District and $283,000 in real estate taxes for Delaware County, the closing of Hog Island Road and Sunoco's Hog Island Wharf, and the loss of 82 acres of wetlands.

   The FAA says the expansion would be an important boost for the entire economy. McCann countered that it would be a boon for Philadelphia but not for Tinicum or the rest of Delaware County. He suggested that the city could look at Eastwick or Northeast Airport for more space. With their industrial base long gone, eastern Delaware County towns historically have had some of the highest effective tax rates - the annual property-tax bill as a percentage of market value - in the region and the country. McCann said he was frustrated that many people viewed the dispute as provincial, although the county did join an unsuccessful suit against the plan. He said even some Tinicum residents outside Lester had expressed no interest. He said that the expansion would affect towns all over the county and that airport-community relations were a nationwide issue. "We're not alone," agreed Thomas J. Giancristoforo, president of the township Board of Commissioners. "People have been living with airport torture a long time." McCann asked the 75 who showed up - most of them Lester residents - to volunteer to organize opposition. "This is like a cancer," said Hox's wife, Donna. "We're not going to sit back and let them take us without a fight." Glen Waldeck, speaking for his wife, Dee, the group's founder, who did not attend, suggested a beef-and-beer fund-raiser and said he and fellow musicians would do their part. "I play in a band," he said, putting aside notes he had written on a music score sheet. "They don't know it yet, but we're volunteering."

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer



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