Sandpoint, ID Airport

In Sandpoint, ID the Bonner Daily Bee reports on a proposal to buyout the airpark development using FAA funds

County moves to buy out SilverWing

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 07, 2009 - 10:06:56 am PDT
News editor

SANDPOINT — Bonner County is moving forward with a plan to buy out the developers of a controversial residential development at Sandpoint Airport with federal funds.

County commissioners decided on a split vote Tuesday to submit a letter of intent to purchase SilverWing at Sandpoint, a 45-lot, fly-in residential development on the west side of the airport.

“This isn’t an easy solution,” said Commission Chairman Joe Young.

The board also agreed to pay a realty firm from Boise $8,000 to appraise the value of the 18-acre property.

SilverWing developer John McKeown has signed onto plan, according to the letter of intent to purchase.

The board’s decisions came on 2-1 votes, with Commissioner Cornel Rasor casting the opposing votes.

“I remain unconvinced that this is a good thing to do,” Rasor said, explaining that the plan amounts to a poor use of tax dollars and loss of local control at the airport.

The plan is aimed at restoring Federal Aviation Administration funding at the airport, which was cut off partly because of the development is contrary to federal grant assurances concerning development at the airport.

The FAA opposes residential development so close to the airport and SilverWing’s through-the-fence runway access.

Under the proposal, 95 percent of the buyout cost would borne by FAA and the remaining 5 percent would be funded through the Panhandle Area Council or some other funding source that has not been identified yet.

Development of SilverWing would then cease. The project currently has a 6,100-square foot model home and hangar, paved streets and utility infrastructure.

Although regional FAA officials have touted a buyout as a possible remedy to the grant compliance issues, it’s ultimately up to FAA officials in Washington, D.C., to decide whether to bankroll the buyout, said Sandpoint Airport Board Chairman Chris Popov.

And even if the plan craters, Popov said the buyout will demonstrate to FAA that the county is working to sort out its compliance issues.

“Acceptance is what we’re striving for,” Popov said.

Popov disagreed that the plan, if approved, would diminish the county’s control at the airport. He said the grant assurances are fairly standard and involve infrastructure, not operations.

Popov said the FAA is trying to clear up compliance issues at smaller airports throughout the Northwest so there is consistency from one facility to the next.

“I think we’re still the poster child, unfortunately,” he said.

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