Saturday, February 11, 2017

Federal Aviation Administration apparently gives Salt Lake City mulligan on Wingpointe



The Federal Aviation Administration has given Salt Lake City another swing at saving Wingpointe Golf Course, though the city's position may be no better on its second attempt.

A memo sent last month by an FAA official and a recent follow-up phone call has the mayor's office "cautiously optimistic," said spokesman Matthew Rojas. The city hopes to negotiate a change in the FAA's by-the-letter stance on the course, which closed in November 2015 and was minimally sustained through December 2016.

"When [Mayor Jackie Biskupski] took office, we were told that it absolutely could not happen," Rojas said.

FAA Associate Administrator Benito De Leon wrote in January that "[w]e encourage the city to provide the FAA with a proposal that would allow the Wingpointe Golf Course to reopen and allow the airport to meet its federal grant requirements."

A challenge now for the city will be persuading the FAA to dramatically lower its valuation of the land.

A June 2011 FAA compliance review found the city's airport — which in 1988 agreed to a 99-year lease with the city at $1 per year — had effectively subsidized the golf course and violated conditions of the airport's federal funding.

The FAA ruled the city must pay a fair-market rent for the property, which city officials say could be $2.4 million per year after an FAA-required rezone for aeronautical use. That's more than twice Wingpointe's highest-ever annual revenues.

The city opted instead to close the course and return the land to airport management. But Biskupski vowed to revive the links-style course, valued by golfers for its low cost and unique wetland features. In late-November, she wrote to the FAA that the Wingpointe has no aeronautical or commercial use and asked the agency to reconsider its decision.

City Council members, having last summer approved $60,000 to temporarily preserve the course, were dismayed last month to hear the city had yet to receive a response.

Reopening the course would require an investment of about $1.1 million, city officials estimate. Those costs are expected to grow if maintenance isn't continued in the spring.

Rojas said Friday that a reopened Wingpointe would likely be operated by a third party, separate from the six municipal courses in the city's golf enterprise fund.

Story and photo gallery:   http://www.sltrib.com

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