Council debates airpark development

COTTONWOOD - The assignment of tenant rights on an airport business property has led to a renewed dispute over the way the City of Cottonwood administers leases at the Cottonwood Airpark, the city owned business park adjacent to the Cottonwood Airport.

Developer Bob Backus asked the council last Tuesday to approve a lease change from Backus Family Investments to a new non-profit High Five Hangars Association, Inc., that would administer the common holdings and pay the city the lease for the small subdivision on Lot #135.

Backus' company built the five hangars with street access on the land on the east side of the airstrip.

He called it a "quality of life" amenity similar to that of Cottonwood's new Recreation Center.

Cottonwood resident Bob Oliphant has repeatedly nagged the council over the leases at the Airpark. He cited a master lease that is supposed to encourage economic development, new employment options and an increase in the tax base.

Oliphant said that he was shocked to read the recommendation for the assignment, that it includes "nothing to address the criteria."

He showed a sales listing of the park leasehold property at $684,000 for six acres, when the city leases the land for only $125 per year.

Councilman Darold Smith agreed with Oliphant: "These questions should be asked."

City Manager Doug Bartosh reminded the council that the question is only the re-assignment of the lease and that the decision to permit the construction of the hangars on the lease land was a planning decision.

He compared the actions to Scottsdale, which developed its airpark in a similar manner and now employs 50,000 people.

Dr. Bob Richards questioned that the hangar park was business-related, but the hangars were for the well-to-do. "I would rather see the buildings remain empty until they had businesses to occupy them."

Airport Manager Tim Costello said there are 13 lots with access to the airport runway and when the five-year airport plan was established, much of that plan called for the development of hangars.

"The airport itself is an income generator for the city," Costello noted. He said the city now has a waiting list for available hangars.

Mayor Diane Joens noted that, "Across the nation, that's what airports do is to provide hangars."

The council voted to approve the assignment to High Five Hangars by a 5-to-1 vote with Darold Smith voting in opposition.

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