Airport officials decided this week to approve a change for the Carson City Airport, allowing a wider range of corporate aircraft to land safely once a new runway is built in the next three years.
City supervisors are expected to make a final decision on the matter in December or January.
The change will allow the airport to build a wider and longer runway and install a global positioning system and weather reporting equipment.
The improvements may be enough to attract national corporate travel to Carson to help boost the economy, said Harlow Norvell, chairman of the city's Airport Authority.
"Our first concern was operational safety for both the aircraft and members of the community," Norvell said.
The change was passed by a 3 -1 vote, with trustee Gene Sheldon casting the dissenting vote. Sheldon said he was concerned the change in the airport's status was different from what the city promised the community when it changed the airport master plan. The plan called for changing the status five to 10 years from now.
"A commitment was made to residents," Sheldon said. "I didn't feel I could switch without a great deal of resident input."
Members of the public, however, did not speak out in concern of the change at Wednesday's meeting.
Sheldon said he was OK with the idea now that it has been approved. The final decision must go before the city's Board of Supervisors because it requires changing the master plan, Norvell said.
If approved, a new runway would be built within three years to replace a 5,900-foot-long runway that is 75 feet wide. The new runway would be moved 300 feet to the north, away from homes on Apollo Court. It would also be extended to 6,700 feet long and 100 feet wide.
The project is estimated to cost $13 million, with 94 percent of the cost paid by the federal government.
Before construction begins, the Federal Aviation Administration will fund an extensive environmental assessment that will include comments from the public, Norvell said.
"Our goal is to make sure we are completely open and have the opportunity to explain in detail to any member of the community exactly what we're doing," Norvell said. "The federal government's position is to not provide funds until we are assured that there is no undue adverse impact to the community."
The study is expected to be done by January.
Norvell said allowing more corporate traffic at the Carson airport may help boost Carson's status as a mid-point between Lake Tahoe and Reno, attracting travelers to stay in the city while visiting the area. Attracting more jets can also mean boosting industrial and commercial business, he said.
With the addition of the weather system, travelers can get weather reports from the airport and plan a flight into Carson City, instead of Douglas or Reno.
"Most decisions, particularly in wintertime, are weather-based decisions," Norvell said.
Committee members also approved buying 25 acres on the northeast side of the runway in preparation of the runway project. The property is commercially zoned.