While Chicago Executive Airport's revised master plan proposal eliminated a much longer main runway, it's offering the possibility of an expansion that would more than double the amount of hangar space.
The airport hosted its final open house in the master plan process to collect more public input Thursday night at Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Chicago North Shore in Prospect Heights. Chicago Executive Airport is co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights.
Under the revised master, the airport would go from 700,000 square feet of hangar facilities to at least 1.5 million square feet in anticipation of a projected 7.4% increase in overall operational growth by 2036.
Airport officials said the new hangars should generate roughly $2 million in annual property tax revenue for Prospect Heights, Wheeling and other local governments. Airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott said industrial properties bordering the facility would be purchased to gain the land needed for the hangars.
"The forecast in the next 20 to 30 years shows growth in the corporate jet market," Abbott said.
"And part of the master plan is figuring out how you're going to accommodate that growth in the future. We're almost tapped out right now with the land we have available to build hangars."
However, the idea of Chicago Executive buying out private property owners for the extra hangars drew concern from Wheeling resident Steve Neff. He said residents would not benefit by removing Industrial Lane businesses from the tax rolls through the airport owning the land to accommodate the hangars.
"If those disappear (from the tax rolls), then it's up to the rest of us to make up the difference," Neff said during the open house. "And as the rest of those parcels fall like dominoes down the street, that number just decreases. Their claims that it's an economic engine and a cash cow for a municipality, it could actually be working in the other direction."
Chicago Executive Airport's revised master plan also calls for new taxiways and aprons, along with closure of the airport's least-used runway. The document is to be finished in the fall, then presented for approval by the Wheeling and Prospect Heights municipal boards as part of the process that involves the Federal Aviation Administration.
Amid mounting opposition from residents, local leaders and a state lawmaker, Chicago Executive Airport officials announced in March elimination of any consideration of runway expansion beyond current airport boundaries. In an advisory referendum question that Neff helped get on the April ballot, Wheeling residents overwhelmingly rejected the idea of the main runway going from 5,700 feet up to a maximum 6,700.
Wheeling resident Neal Katz, who departed as a Chicago Executive Airport board director in May, said dropping the runway from the master plan was a poor decision. He said the airport is financially self sustaining and needs to continue growing revenue from fuel sales and facility rentals.
"They actually made a huge mistake not listening to the board," Katz said.
"The mistake was the 'Say no to airport expansion.' Actually, I've used this phrase: They won the fight, but they lost the war. My statement for that is, the board was looking at an opportunity to move the direction of the main runway and get it away from residents."
Chicago Executive Airport handles about 80,000 corporate, charter and light-aircraft flights annually as a reliever for O'Hare International Airport.
It is bounded by Hintz Road on the north, Wolf Road on the west, Palatine Road on the south and Milwaukee Avenue on the east.
Airport officials and consultants say there are no guarantees anything in the new master plan will be built. The document was last updated about 30 years ago.