Turbulence surrounding Wakulla County airport as county, HOA clash

FILE PHOTO: Generic image of a Cessna plane over a lake.
FILE PHOTO: Generic image of a Cessna plane over a lake.(MGN)
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 1:25 PM EDT
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CRAWFORDVILLE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Wakulla County commissioners voted Monday to terminate the county’s operation and maintenance of the airport, the latest step in a yearslong debate about the future of the facility. The agreement between the county and two homeowners’ groups, the Tarpine Owners Association and Panacea Coastal Properties, dates back to 2014.

The commissioners’ decision came the same day the Tarpine Owners Association rejected the county’s offer to transfer ownership, operation and maintenance of the airport to the HOA. That offer was made two weeks earlier after a vote by commissioners at their April 4 meeting.

“The desire of the Tarpine HOA has always been to ensure the successful and safe, future operation of the Airport. It would be unwise for the HOA to accept the transfer of the Airport in its current non-compliant and deficient state,” said HOA airport committee member Sheryl Kuersteiner.

HOA members say those deficiencies include restoring the lighting, irrigation and rotating beacon which were removed on the county’s watch. The HOA says the airport also needs to acquire 50 feet of additional land to widen the runway and bring it into FAA compliance.

Located three miles south of Panacea in the Ochlocknee Bay community, the airport is the only one in Wakulla County. It has one grass runway, which is 2,590 feet long by 70 feet wide, according to the county.

Ahead of the vote, county attorney Heather Encinosa called Monday’s decision “ending the airport” and said it would eventually mean turning over control to the heirs of the original owner, Fenton Jones. Jones established the airstrip before donating it to the county in the late 1960s with the stipulation that it remains a public airport.

WCTV has reached out to Wakulla County commissioners about the latest decision on control of the airport and we are waiting to hear back.

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