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Tue, Feb 27, 2007

Blaine, WA City Council Votes To Close 4W6

Airport Will Be Shut Down By End Of 2008

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 02.27.07 1100 EST: General aviation has lost another small airport. By a 4-3 vote, the Blaine, WA City Council resolved to close Blaine Municipal Airport by the end of 2008.

According to The Bellingham Herald, airport advocates made one last, unsuccessful effort to stave off the closure of Blaine Municipal Airport before the final vote was taken.

City Airport Commission Chairman Doug Fenton argued that a quick closure could lead to pressure for a quick sale to raise money to pay back airport grant money and pay off the holders of airport leases who would likely file lawsuit, according to the newspaper. That kind of pressure could mean the city would not be able to wait for the best possible offer for the 34-acre site.

Fenton suggested keeping the airport open while awaiting offers on the land. Pilots from Point Roberts, Anacortes, Redmond and Arlington also urged the council to keep the airport, saying it was an important transportation link used for business as well as pleasure, according to the newspaper.

Council member Bruce Wolf urged a delay to give city officials time to explore the possibility of getting other airports to loan their unused Federal Aviation Administration grants. Wolf said that could help Blaine pay for the $16 million facelift envisioned in the city's airport master plan, which includes relocating the airport runway to the south, according to the newspaper.

Council member Jason Overstreet countered with an email from "an FAA official" that ruled out such a possibility, and termed the conversation "illogical."

The heated debate continued, but failed to sway members who voted for the closure: Jason Overstreet, Bonnie Onyon, John Liebert and Ken Ely. Council members Charlie Hawkins, Bruce Wolf and Mayor Mike Meyers voted against the measure.

During the months of discussion about the airport's fate, advocates of a shutdown and sale have relied on a consultant's study which pegged the likely price of the land at $5.7 million for the airport property as a site for commercial and industrial development, according to the newspaper.

The consultants, Makers architecture + urban design of Seattle, also estimated that redevelopment of the site could create 332 new jobs and $149,000 in city tax revenue by 2025.

But legal settlements with airport leaseholders and the payback of past state and federal airport grants to the city could cost as much as $4 million, according to an estimate from City Attorney Jon Sitkin.

FMI: www.ci.blaine.wa.us/page.cfm?PageID=477

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