Three weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration sent Mayor Doug Murphree a letter asking the city to either secure ownership of the 40-acre property, which was thought to be owned by the city when initially included in the Airport Layout Plan in 2007, or revise the ALP to reflect the actual airport boundaries. FAA asked for a corrective action plan within 45 days.
At Monday’s work session, IDB Chairman Dalbert Marsh and Calvin Miller, director of the Talladega County Economic Development Authority, also asked for a resolution to this ongoing issue by presenting a formal resolution requesting that IDB’s land be removed from the ALP, which is an FAA planning tool that maps future airport expansion.
“It’s taken a lot of your time and a lot of our energy to deal with this one issue, and we ought to be doing something different,” Marsh told the council. “We ought to be out there looking for jobs and people to locate on this property.”
The property was assumed, by both the city and IDB, to be owned by the city until about a year ago when a third party performed a title search before removing trees from the land as part of an airport expansion project. The search showed that IDB was deeded the property near U.S. 280 for industrial development in 1996.
Upon discovering the ownership snafu, FAA offered to purchase a 10-acre plot intended for construction of additional hangars, but IDB is not interested in selling any of its acreage because it says the land would be needed for potential expansion should an industry locate in a speculative building IDB built nearby in 2008.
Councilman Joe Hogan suggested Monday that the city update the ALP, keeping the 10 acres intended for additional hangars, but removing the other 30 acres and giving the city ownership, but still allowing IDB to market it for industry.
“I don’t mind saying, (IDB has) problems with the Airport Board,” Hogan said. “The Airport Board has problems with (IDB). Why? I don’t know. I don’t even care, but the city is the one that’s being sacrificed here. Somewhere down the line, we’ve got to start looking at this from a city standpoint and not from a board’s or an Airport Layout Plan. If we take back control of that property, we’ve fixed a lot of the mix-ups from the past and eliminated problems in the future, in my opinion.”
Marsh said IDB was hoping the city would remove all of its land from the ALP.
“Since you have to revise the ALP anyway, since that is not owned by the airport or the city at the moment, since it has a spec building and utilities on it for development of industrial property, you’ve got to take it out,” Marsh said. “All these other things you’re talking about sound great – futuristic, maybe – but right now, we’ve got a problem.”
Councilmen raised some questions about the city’s ability to receive FAA grant funding if this land, which is basically the only property available for airport expansion, were removed from the ALP. The council decided to schedule a phone conference with FAA program manager Keafur Grimes to discuss possible ramifications.
“I think we’ve spent enough time on this tonight, because there are so many unknown variables,” council President Rocky Lucas said. “So let’s get on the phone with Keafur Grimes, hopefully Wednesday after our council meeting. I know I have some questions, and then we can make a more educated decision and move forward from there.”
The council meets today at 9 a.m. at City Hall.
Contact Emily McLain at email@example.com.