Georgetown Municipal Airport master plan update explores possible expansion, upgrades


The Georgetown Municipal Airport has seen an increase in air traffic since its master plan was last revised in 2005, and Airport Manager Russ Volk said the facility’s guiding document is overdue for an update.

But some residents living near the airport have raised concerns about negative effects the busier activity could have on environmental health and property values.

The airport counted 97,346 takeoffs and landings in 2016, a 28 percent increase from the previous year and the highest annual total since the airport’s air traffic control tower first came online in 2008, according to data in a draft master plan update.

“The airport’s experiencing a growth spurt just like the city of Georgetown and the whole Central Texas region,” Volk said.

In November, the Kansas City, Missouri-based consulting firm Coffman Associates, which was selected to complete the airport’s draft master plan update, released a recommended development plan and capital improvement program that lists 52 projects with an estimated cost of $59.6 million to be considered over the next two decades. Of the estimated cost, 84 percent could be eligible for federal aviation grant funding, according to Coffman Associates.

The documents released in November were the final components of a master plan update process that began in 2016 and included reports on aviation demand forecasts, airport development alternatives and other elements.

The draft plan can be found online at

Volk said about $218,000 has been spent to complete the update process. Ninety percent of that money has come from Federal Aviation Administration grants through the Texas Department of Transportation’s aviation division, and the remainder has been paid out of the airport’s budget, he said.

Plan highlights

Near-term improvements that could be considered over the first five years of the updated plan include a variety of projects meant to bring the airport into compliance with modern FAA design standards, Volk said.

That includes plans to reconstruct pavement and replace lighting on several of the airport’s taxiways, which planes use to move between hangars and the airport’s runways.

Intermediate-term projects include a proposal to lengthen the airport’s main runway, which runs north-to-south, by 500 feet on both ends, bringing its total length to about 6,000 feet. Volk said the lengthening would put the airport’s runway into recommended specification for the types of aircraft that use the airport today.

The draft plan also includes proposals to add space for new general-aviation hangars in later stages of the airport’s future development.

Patrick Taylor of Coffman Associates said during a Nov. 16 airport advisory committee meeting that the plan also includes a proposal to open the southwest portion of airport property, the area closest to Northwest Boulevard, to private development.

The area “is a highly marketable piece of land potentially for the airport,” Taylor said.

Georgetown’s airport will remain a general aviation reliever airport to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, so no commercial passenger service is proposed over the next two decades, according to the draft plan.

For the airport’s general aviation tenants, the proposed improvements could expand business opportunities and increase pilot safety, said Steven Alexander, a founder of Texas Aviation Partners, which owns GTU Jet, one of the airport’s largest fixed-based general aviation operators.

Neighbor concerns

Some residents living near the airport oppose expansion plans.

Carl Norris, a member of the group Airport Concerned Citizens that has in the past called for Georgetown’s airport to be relocated, said the master plan update has renewed the group’s desire to see the airport undergo a full environmental assessment through the National Environmental Policy Act, the law enacted by Congress in 1970 that requires federal agencies to study environmental effects of their actions.

“We have never lost focus of what we have been after, which is a public input process with the environmental impact process, which would put [the airport]in compliance with NEPA,” Norris said.

The draft master plan outlines some potential environmental effects of new airport development but does not include formal studies. Individual projects, however, could require deeper assessment, Taylor said.

Georgetown resident Rich Gottleib, who said he recently moved into the Estrella Crossing neighborhood near the airport, said he is not convinced that the airport’s current use justifies the need for a runway extension. He added that existing operations at the airport are already negatively impacting some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s not just inconvenience and the noise; it’s going to be a loss in property value,” Gottleib said.

Another concern raised during a Nov. 16 public information meeting involves a proposal to extend runway protection zones beyond the airport’s property line on either end of its main runway, which would put the airport in compliance with FAA guidelines issued in 2012, Volk said.

Extending the zones, which is included in the draft plan’s long-term project recommendations, would require the airport to use FAA money to purchase and demolish several dozen homes outside of the airport’s existing property lines.

Volk said there is no recommendation to actively pursue acquisition of homes within the FAA zone, other than if somebody puts his or her home up for sale and there was federal money available to buy it.

“From all indications there’s not going to be an active push to go in and do mass purchases of homes and take them out,” he said.

Next steps

Volk said before the plan is finalized, it would need approval from the city’s transportation advisory board, Georgetown City Council, the Texas Department of Transportation and the FAA.

He anticipates the plan will be ready to begin moving through that process as early as January.

Individual projects will need separate approvals before construction can begin. Available funding, Volk said, will drive additions or expansions.

“It’s not uncommon that a sizeable percentage of those don’t get funded because there’s just not enough money to go around,” Volk said.

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  1. In my 50+ years as a pilot, flight school owner and aircraft maintenance provider, I have been personal witness to many “schemes” to profit from real estate in and around existing airports. The most common of which is to buy a cheap tract of land inside the approach path to a local airport, develop it for residential use and then petition or sue the City to close the airport for “safety reasons”. One can easily reap a fat profit using this tactic and for about two decades back in the 80’s and 90’s, this was so common that small regional airports were being forced out at a rate of one or two a DAY all across the US, until Congress stepped in to put a stop to such efforts in 1998 with the General Aviation Revitalization Act.

    A common complaint about this abuse, was that local decision makers in various city government offices were also real estate investors who bought tracks of land nearby and were looking after their own interests in closing airports, municipal or private.

    One very infamous account of this flagrant abuse of office involved the attempted closing of Reid Hillview Airport in San Jose, (Santa Clara County) CA. When it was all said and done, the factor that stopped efforts to close the airport, a general aviation and reliever airport for San Jose International Airport (KSJC) , was American Airlines threatening to pull out of San Jose if Reid Hillview was closed as that would drive more general aviation traffic into KSJC and possibly adversely effect their operations and “on time” ratings.

    It is a fact that new airports are always constructed away from cities and other types of developments for noise and safety reasons. It’s also a fact that developing a new airport raises local property values, and this fact attracts those looking to buy real estate cheaply and sell for maximum profit. Because this is the most common motive for land development near airports or proposed airports, those property owners are relentless in promoting their interests above all others, much like certain groups have been doing for many years in Georgetown.

    Corruption of local city governments becomes widespread and entrenched once elected and city employees are able to put the interests of themselves over the greater good of the community they serve, and do so in relative obscurity using the cover offered by the very regulations they write and pass. Only by shining a bright light on such shenanigans are citizens able to thwart the long term damage that bad laws bring, before they come to pass.

    Don’t let the local real estate profiteers have their way in closing or limiting local airport use or expansion. And look carefully at those decision makers in City Government, what their interest is, and where they stand to profit.


    Steve Brown

  2. Noah Bollinger

    This is a great idea to expand the airport and help the the flow of increasing population. There are many concerns about the property value dropping in the near neighbor hoods cause of the noise. This isn’t a bad thing in the fact we are doing, but it is bad in some ways they it’s effecting. I agree with the expansion but you don’t have to expand it so much on each side you can do 750ft on one side and 250ft on the side to the closest neighbor hood. I very much agree with this article in every other way the city is expanding on. Hopefully this helps with the plans and the people around the neighborhood.


    Noah Bollinger

Evan Marczynski
Evan Marczynski is editor of the Georgetown edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He joined Community Impact in 2016 as a reporter in Northwest Austin and previously covered Austin-area health care and Round Rock ISD. Evan is a native of the Pacific Northwest, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University in 2012 and worked as a newspaper reporter until he moved to Texas.
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