LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Less than ten months after Amazon’s first cargo flight touched down at Lakeland Linder International Airport, the online retail giant already wants to move forward with expanding its operations.
But not everyone who lives in the surrounding area in on board with the proposal that awaits an approval from the FAA.
“The dynamic has changed,” Airport Director Gene Conrad said. “The plans were to expand at some point but I just don’t think any of us thought it would come this fast.”
When Amazon’s planes take off from Lakeland, Robert Knight said they often fly over where he lives in the nearby Grasslands country club.
“Of course being an airplane enthusiast I don’t mind that,” said Knight, who has been flying out of the Lakeland airport for 50 years.
Amazon’s expansion plans include more space for more aircraft storage space and another new fuel farm.
In five years, the airport expects Amazon to double the number of daily arrivals and departures from 22 to 44.
“It’s really loud as it is now and if they’re going to be bringing in that many more planes its gonna be a constant flow of air traffic day and night,” Lakeland resident Michael Sivilli said.
At Thursday night’s public hearing with nearly 200 attendees, Sivilli spoke out about noise, quality of life and property value concerns.
“At this point I got to make a decision,” he said, “I got to talk to my wife about it whether or not we’re gonna stay or not.”
Conrad said while the FAA’s environmental assessment only looks at the immediate area around the airport, he recognizes there could be impacts felt a few miles away.
“There are impacts away from the airport that we need to address and us as the city of Lakeland and the airport are working to mitigate and develop new approaches and departure procedures out of the airport to mitigate as much as we can and be good neighbors,” Conrad said.
Between the additional revenues for the airport and the regional economic benefits, Knight told 8 On Your Side he supports Amazon’s planned expansion and the airport’s efforts to mitigate any impacts.
“Lakeland is a really growing community and I think its growing in a good way,” he said.
If the FAA gives the green light soon, Amazon would move into the design phase and begin construction by the end of the year according to Conrad.