The Pella City Council approved the denial of a request by Mahaska County Supervisors to Amend 28E Agreement for the South Central Regional Airport during last week’s regular meeting.
At the Policy and Planning meeting on August 20, 2013, Council discussed a request from the Mahaska County Supervisors to amend Article X Section 1 of the 28E Agreement between Mahaska County, the City of Oskaloosa and the City of Pella for the proposed regional airport. The intent of the proposal from the Mahaska County Supervisors is to remove the ability of the South Central Regional Airport Agency (SCRAA) to either utilize eminent domain or to request one of the member parties to commence eminent domain proceedings for the proposed regional airport.
Eminent domain is commonly defined as the inherent power of a government entity to acquire private property for public use. Equally important to note, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States requires just compensation for private property acquired for public use.
After discussing and evaluating the proposed amendment by the Mahaska County Supervisors, the Mayor and Council were in favor of denying the amendment. However, the Mayor and Council also believed it was important for the City to continue to work collaboratively with both Mahaska County and the City of Oskaloosa in addressing issues and concerns with the project.
This resolution denies the proposed amendment to the 28E agreement by the Mahaska County Supervisors.
As reported, the South Central Regional Airport Agency is currently conducting the necessary aviation planning studies to evaluate the public need for the regional airport. Unfortunately, it will take between 18 to 24 months to complete these planning studies. However, based on the analysis conducted to date, we believe the following items support the justification for the proposed regional airport:
A. Based on prior engineering analysis, it appears it is not economically feasible to upgrade the Pella Municipal Airport to a Category C Level.
B. Prior aeronautical forecasts have indicated sufficient demand for a new regional airport.
C. The Iowa Aviation System Plan 2010-2030 recommends the cities of Oskaloosa and Pella develop a new regional airport to replace the two existing airports serving our communities. The plan also states that a “Lack of cooperation may result in airports with inadequate infrastructure and services to meet the air transportation demands of the region, impacting quality of life and opportunities for economic growth”.
In addition to the above information, if the Federal Aviation Administration awards significant federal funding for the project through its competitive grant process, staff believes the demonstrated public need for the project will have been met. Therefore, under this scenario, the use of eminent domain for the regional airport project is appropriate.
In analyzing the proposed amendment, Pella City Staff believes that it is unlikely the project could be built without having eminent domain available to ensure the necessary property could be purchased for the project. For instance, the project could be derailed if only one property owner refused to sell needed property for the regional airport. Secondly, approval of the proposed amendment has the potential to drastically increase the cost of the project as the value of the property needed for the project would be based on the demands of the property owner versus ‘just compensation’ as established under the current federal regulations. Furthermore, the FAA will require the project to purchase all of the required property before federal reimbursement would be considered, which would require significant cash outlays from both cities with no assurance of federal reimbursement. Unfortunately, the combination of these two items may make the project financially unfeasible for the cities of Oskaloosa and Pella.