A controversial project at an Ocean County airport forms the basis of a public hearing next week.

The Pinelands Commission will hold the session to discuss a Memorandum of Agreement they have with Ocean County. The idea is to construct a crosswind runway and make other upgrades to the Robert J Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township. The Federal Aviation Administration says the upgrades would be for safety of the pilots who are forced to land during tough weather conditions. Environmentalists are up in arms saying it would destroy the wildlife in the area.

The Ocean County Freeholders want to use revenue from its Natural Lands Trust Fund to buy about 460 acres near the area in the Pine Barrens to compensate for the project. Residents have also expressed worry about the trees and open space near the airport and some are even against officials using that funding. The Freeholders have stated if they don’t fund it with that trust and have to find other revenue sources, taxes could be increased as a result. They don’t want to do that.

Nancy Wittenberg, Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission, says “this is a very complicated issue that can’t be wrapped up quickly. There are a lot of things at work here. We want to hear from those interested in this and find out where they stand. The FAA has made it clear the project is necessary. It’s now up to us to decide whether or not the project will move forward as is or with modifications.”

Those for or against the plan will be able to voice their concerns and ask questions of officials next Wednesday night at 7 P.M. inside Berkeley Town Hall on Pinewald-Keswick Road.