In February, Forsyth County Commissioners approved a new resolution in support of a plan for an executive airport in Dawson County. This week, they got some extra information on the plan.
At a work session on Tuesday, commissioners heard from Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason about plans for the city to purchase and operate Elliott Field, a private airfield owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, as a non-commercial airport. No action was taken by commissioners at the meeting.
“There are 104 public airports in Georgia,” Eason said. “Elliott Field in Dawson County, which is in the city of Dawsonville, is not a public airport … At the current time, if you took the number of aircraft that are based there, which is about 17, we would rank No. 57 of those 104 around the state. It’s a pretty significant operation up there.”
Eason said there is no interest in making the facility a commercial airport, meaning the public would be able to purchase tickets and fly out of it, and would instead be a place where those who own planes can keep them and fly in and out on their own schedule.
“We want to try to make it a place where people lease the ground, build a hanger and put their jets there,” Eason said. “We’re not looking at a lot of aircraft traffic in our area. Corporate jets don’t fly three or four times a day, they fly twice a month or three times a month at most. We’re looking for that type of airport, not a busy, flight-school airport with small planes flying all around crashing into your house.”
Though plans for Dawsonville to purchase the airfield go back to at least 2006, Forsyth County has had a renewed interest in the field as county officials work with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the county’s development authority on a new economic development plan.
Under the economic plan, a task force will be created to find where it should go. The aim is to give executives and other business officials a faster way to fly into the county than Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Per the Dawson County News, in a joint meeting of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and the Dawsonville City Council in October, both parties discussed plans for the city to take over the facility as a non-commercial airport.
Under the agreement, the Elliott family will donate a portion of the runway to the city.
“The airport has been in operation since 1984, so it’s not a new airport to our community,” Eason said. “It’s owned by the Elliott family. They have decided that they want to start preparing for retirement, I presume, and want to start liquidating some of their assets and properties.”
Eason said the plans for the airport have to go through both the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration and will require a change from a “private-private” airport to a “public-public” airport.
“We’re in the process of working with them to make this airport classified as public-public. What that does basically is it controls the airport,” Eason said. “Right now, if some Chinese investors or Czechoslovakian investors or someone from anywhere in the world came, they could buy that airport. They could start landing heavy jets there. There’s no regulation on private airports, so you could bring anything you want in there. What we’re trying to do is protect the community.”
Eason said the airfield would also be an asset to the tax base through rental space and other options. He said “40 or 50” corporate jets had inquired about using the property.
“We’re trying to set this thing up in a manner that won’t cost the citizens of the city of Dawsonville anything,” he said. “It’s going to be a big boon to the county because if you look at what a corporate jet pays in ad valorem taxes every year to the county, you’re talking $15,000-$100,000.”