Federal and local decisions in 2018 have paved the way for long-term growth at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, changes that supporters hope could add to the more than 300 jobs and $10 million annual payroll there now, and changes that have some neighbors worried.
The 527-acre, Dayton-owned facility received FAA approval in August of a new long-range plan that includes a runway extension. The federal blessing followed a study recommending a light industrial park of more than 500,000 square feet of buildings on airport land.
Next week, zoning changes take effect on 321 DWB acres, much of it “intended as an economic and employment driver,” one Miami Twp. official said.
The zoning district is designed to better position the township to monitor and control growth on airport land as development moves east of Austin Center. The zoning changes adopt similar design standards as the Austin district, which has attracted more than $100 million in new construction and thousands of jobs, including those at Austin Landing.
“It’s going to set standards for anyone who wants to do development on it,” Miami Twp. Board of Trustees Vice President Doug Barry said.
“It’s getting our ducks in a row so when someone comes to us and wants to do something, we’re ready to go,” he added.
Likely the first change for the new zoning district, township officials said, will be the installation of an outdoor digital advertising sign along Ohio 741 near the Warren County line.
The sign will be similar to the largely brick and stone structures in and around the Dayton Mall, township officials said.
Airport changes raise concerns
Talk about possible changes at the airport commonly raises concerns, in part because of its location and surroundings. Most of the land of the general aviation site is in Miami Twp., but it’s southern tip also stretches into Warren County and Springboro.
Washington Twp. is directly to the east of the airport, which has seen residential and business expansion sprout up around it in all directions since the airport was built in 1953.
The zoning district didn’t draw any public opposition. But Peter Kempe, a Springboro resident who lives near the airport, said he is “really concerned about” any impact development would have on wildlife being pushed toward his neighborhood.
“We’re not changing any of the infrastructure at the airport that would allow, for example, a commercial airplane to the land there,” Dayton Director of Aviation Terry Slaybaugh said. “We’re still going to be limited by the thickness of the runway, the width of the runway, the width and size of the taxiway. So we’re not heading into a direction where we’re talking about changing the capability of the airport to bring in much larger aircraft.
“And frankly, we don’t want that. We operate the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport as a feeder airport,” he added.
Slaybaugh said the concept is to feed smaller airplanes to Dayton-Wright Brothers away from Dayton International Airport.
“Frankly, I don’t want large cargo and commercial jets coming down to Dayton-Wright Brothers,” he said.
Slaybaugh said the zoning district will provide “guidelines that are going to protect the long-term use of the airport for aviation purposes. So we know if we have good zoning around the airport, it’s not going to conflict with the property as an airport for aviation.”
Eastern land a prime focus
Dayton-Wright Brothers is responsible for about 320 jobs, an annual payroll of $10.7 million and a yearly economic output of nearly $36 million, according to a 2015 Ohio Department of Transportation study.
In recent years, The Connor Group has built a new headquarters there at Austin Boulevard and Ohio 741, investing more than $20 million, including $5 million for aircraft hangar.
Plans for a 500-foot runway extension – which could include realigning part of Austin Boulevard – are still years off, Slaybaugh has said. Airport officials are in the initial stages of an environmental impact study on the extension, which would attract more business to the site, especially on the largely-undeveloped northeast section.
That land is the prime focus of the zoning district, which local officials say will help better define where and how future business development can occur.
The northeastern part of airport land near Austin Boulevard and Washington Twp. is where studies could attract scores of jobs as development moves east of Austin Center.
“The primary development area,” is how Miami Twp. Deputy Community Development Director Kyle Hinkelman described it to township officials last month. “It is meant as an industrial and business park area, which would allow specific uses.
“It would not be intended to continue on a retail focus or to have public services,” he added. “That would really be intended as an economic and employment driver” and more airport-related growth “as more airport facilities are needed.”
Study calls for light industrial growth
A study commissioned by a Joint Economic Development District involving the township and Dayton outlines three light industrial park scenarios ranging from 11 to 18 buildings. They include:
•Nine buildings with 50,000 square feet each and two buildings with 25,000 square feet each;
•One building with 100,000 square feet, three buildings with 50,000 square feet each and 13 buildings with 25,000 square feet each;
•One building with 100,000 square feet and 17 buildings with 25,000 square feet each.
Permitted uses for this area will include manufacture and assembly of products, research and engineering labs, and business/professional offices and technology centers, among many others, documents show.
The zoning change will bring “a fairly unregulated district – into a much more regulated district in a way that allows the airport to grow and expand,” Hinkelman said, “….toward some of the areas and directions that we as a township are looking to go in terms of a higher quality development, a certain look and aesthetic, try a bring in a connection to the airport to our walking paths from Springboro to Austin Landing.”