Editorial: Airport is an asset to the county

Jeff Edwards was flying by the seat of his pants when he suggested shutting down the Oceano County Airport to make way for housing or other private development. The Board of Supervisors made it clear Tuesday that the airport is not for sale — that’s good.

We commend the board for its unequivocal stand, and we hope that puts a quick end to this proposal.

Not only is the idea sketchy and ill-timed — given that major improvements are slated for the Oceano airport — it’s also been presented in a way that seems guaranteed to alienate key players.

Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, whose district includes Oceano, said he was caught off guard by the proposal, and dinged Edwards for not having the courtesy to stop by his office to discuss the plan.

Some South County residents have questioned why Edwards, a developer from Los Osos, would take it upon himself to set up a committee to discuss the future of the airport in Oceano.

And private pilots are understandably concerned; many turned out for the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday to voice their alarm.

We don’t mean to discourage visionary ideas, and we agree that it makes sense for government agencies to consider selling surplus properties they may no longer need. But the Oceano airport does not fall into that category.

The airport has been an asset to South County; according to Achadjian, it has an economic impact of $1 million per year.

It could be even more important in the future. Some planned improvements, including additional hangars and more aircraft parking, should lead to increased use of the facility, especially if the upgrades are well promoted.

It is true that the day may come when it makes sense to consider other uses for this 58-acre stretch of coastal property.

It would be difficult to justify keeping the airport open if it benefits only a handful of recreational pilots, and for that reason, we strongly urge the county to closely monitor use of the Oceano County Airport over time.

In the event of a steady decline in use, then it would be time to discuss whether there may be better ways to develop this public property.

But as long as use remains steady and the airport continues to be self-supporting, the county should stay the course and maintain this valuable asset.