The Horry County Airport Advisory Committee hopes the county will agree that an ad-hoc committee of city, county and an airport appearance board officials should weigh future plans for the new closed terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
The 20,000-square-foot ticket lobby has been on the market for about 60 days and some airport officials were hoping to get a decision on what to do with it soon so it can begin remodeling or demolishing it for next summer’s travelers. But the advisory committee voted to the slow the process and allow various voices to discuss the terminal’s future.
“I hate to use the words that we’re running out of time,” said Kirk Lovell, marketing director for the airport, who was giving a presentation to the committee at its meeting Wednesday.
Committee Chairman Chuck Martino said he lived through the debates and discussions of creating the new $118 million terminal, which opened earlier this year. He knows there are passionate people about what will be done with the old terminal and said, “without a discussion with at least the city of Myrtle Beach, it would come off as a switch and bait.
“I think it would be a hard sell to the community that we could not find a future use,” Martino said.
The recommendation to create the ad-hoc committee will now go to the county’s administration committee Friday.
Horry County, which owns the airport, has been talking about expanding the terminal for more than a decade. Construction began in late 2010 after a lengthy process that included the Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board nixing the terminal’s proposed location, sending county leaders back to the drawing board and causing the project to be delayed for several years. Horry County owns the airport, but it’s in the city limits so Myrtle Beach has to sign off on certain aspects of it.
The terminal expansion was designed to handle additional traffic in and out of Myrtle Beach by increasing the number of gates from seven to 12. The design was to increase the capacity for baggage claim, move the rental car space to a separate smaller building outside the terminal and provide more space for a welcome center.
This is not the first time there has been talk about how to use the old terminal space. An official with MB Kahn Construction has said the intention was to rent out the terminal to airport-friendly businesses, including the possibility of an airport shuttle or public transportation service.
The idea of letting the county use it for other uses, such as storage, comes with a hitch, said Mike LaPier, director of airports for the county.
“Even though we are a department of the county, the [Federal Aviation Administration] requires us to charge market rate,” LaPier said.
Advisory committee member Myra Starnes said the airport did not give itself enough time to find a tenant.
“A property can take six months to rent,” Starnes said. “Why are you in such a hurry to tear the thing down? Why tear down something that could get good use?”
Martino said a “more prudent” way of preventing a decade of argument is to open the process up to members from the county council, city council and the Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board, “because what you get from them in this room is what you’re going to get out there” in the public.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.