Thursday, September 29, 2011

Group says airport priced land too low. Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport (KBWG), Bowling Green, Kentucky.

An environmental group contends that the price tag for more than four acres of land proposed for sale at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport is well below market value and runs contrary to airport objectives.

Leslie Barras, a Louisville attorney for Karst Environmental Education and Protection, said the 4.6 acres to be sold to KYCORE for $494,500 “appears to be a substantial discrepancy in the fair market value,” according to a letter she sent to Tommy Dupree, a Federal Aviation Administration administrator.

A 2000 report from the Property Valuation Administration said the highest and best use of airport property was more than $500,000 an acre, the letter said.

But airport manager Rob Barnett said the proposed sale price is only slightly below its independently appraised value of $515,000.

Barnett said the FAA gave the go-ahead to accept the offer, saying there was wiggle room in the negotiations.

The sale of the property meets all FAA requirements and will allow the airport to get a new, larger airport maintenance facility inside its perimeter, he said. The building to be sold is 6,600 square feet and the board hopes to build a replacement facility of up to 10,000 square feet.

The property in question is outside the airport fence at 2325 Airway Court, adjacent to the former home of the late Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Charles Reynolds. The home was airport headquarters before being sold to house KYCORE.

The airport board needed a larger maintenance facility and had considered expanding it.

“But that wasn’t financially prudent,” he said.

Barnett said KYCORE representatives contacted him in June about possibly purchasing the property to use for more office space for operations of one of its companies. Barnett said he did not know specifically which companies would be housed in the space.

“So we made the request to the FAA to transfer the land,” he said.

Proceeds from the sale will be plowed back into the airport, which is acceptable and was deemed appropriate by the FAA, as was published for 30 days in the Federal Register.

“It is outside of any runway protection zone,” Barnett said.

But the KEEP letter said “approval of the conveyance of land and improvements and construction of a new airport building through this proposed action: (1) subverts the federal-aid airport planning process; (2) should be evaluated through at least an Environmental Assessment as related actions with cumulative impacts; (3) contradicts the position of local managers and elected officials that the airport location presents public safety concerns because of contiguous encroachments; and (4) represents a sale of public assets that does not appear to be based upon fair market value.”

Barnett said having a new maintenance facility has been a part of the airport’s master plan for years.

Barras in her letter asked her comments be placed in the administrative record for this proposed action.

“We look forward to FAA’s review of and response to our objections and concerns,” she said.

Dupree could not be reached for comment.

Despite the letter, Barnett said he expects a final contract agreement on the sale of the property to move forward. After that occurs, they will seek qualifications of a contractor to do a design-build of the new maintenance facility. Having just one contract makes the project move forward faster.

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