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City airport may see some changes

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Public improvements, new name proposed for facility in Denton

Change is still in the wind at Denton Airport, although not all officials are enthusiastic about the latest recommendations.

The City Council heard a briefing Monday from Quentin Hix, the city’s director of aviation, that included a proposal to change the airport’s name to “Denton Enterprise Airport” and fund an estimated $350,000 in public improvements. Hix also sought the council’s feedback on proposed public/private partnership investment guidelines.

The recommendation to change the airport’s name came from a special task force appointed by the council to help implement the airport’s two-year-old business plan. Other materials will accompany the proposed change, including a new logo and other materials to help brand and market the airport.

The airport code associated with the Denton airport, DTO, is assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration and would not change, Hix said.

He told the council that the marketing work grew out of what is at the airport now and would help it continue to grow.

“Eighty percent of what you see there now wasn’t there 10 years ago,” Hix said. “It [marketing] will assist not only in developing out the east side, but also the west side.”

The airport has a 7,000-foot-long runway, full business aviation services and more than 250 acres of land available for lease development.

The recommendation for a name change did not come from the Airport Advisory Board, although the material was presented to it, Hix told the council. In a straw vote, most of the seven members favored the name change.

The board understood that the recommendation was supposed to come from the city’s Economic Development Partnership Board, according to Bob Eames, the airport board chairman.

While frustrated with the process, especially with something as fundamental as changing the name of the airport, members understood their role, he said.

“No one was jumping up and down because they loved the name, but no one was jumping up to stop it either,” Eames said.

Former airport board member Don Smith told the council Denton Airport was a good airport and the name change wasn’t warranted, unlike name changes at other airports.

Dallas had to change the name of its business airport, Redbird, to Dallas Executive Airport because it had become known among pilots as “Dead Bird,” Smith said.

Board member Bill Schofield said in an interview Monday afternoon that he, too, has opposed the name change.

He was not able to attend the council meeting and was concerned that tenants and other stakeholders were not being kept apprised of all the proposed changes.

Council members Chris Watts and Dalton Gregory told Hix they wanted to hear feedback from tenants and other stakeholders before the matter came to them for a vote.

The Airport Advisory Board was divided on about $350,000 in proposed public improvements at the airport entrance, Hix told the council members.

Members approved plans to build a truck turnaround with a bus stop to accommodate the Denton County Transportation Authority and a green space for a sculpture.

But they tabled discussion about a new road that would connect south from Airport Road to Spartan Drive. That part of the project was controversial because it was seen as primarily benefitting one tenant, U.S. Aviation Academy, a flight school.

Jeff Soules, president and general manager of U.S. Aviation Academy, told the council it was true that the business would benefit from the more direct route to its building. But, he said, other tenants on the south side of Airport Road would benefit from the road, too.

The council told Hix he could go ahead with plans to build the turnaround, bus stop and sculpture park, but that the council wanted to wait until the airport board revisited the road before considering any action on that item.

Watts was concerned that some of the guidelines for public/private partnership projects were too low to guarantee the airport a good return on its enterprise fund.

Ultimately, the City Council would have to approve any such project, Hix said, however the guidelines would help the staff in negotiations.

The guidelines would limit proposals to partners with a five-year track record, and for projects that have the potential for a 4.25 percent capital recovery rate over 20 years, in addition to bringing in a minimum of 25 percent to 50 percent additional cash in lease payments.

“What if we need to change based on market conditions?” Watts asked.

He recommended that the final guidelines be more open-ended to allow the council room to respond to conditions in the real estate market.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is .