Sunday, October 14, 2007

Redlands Airport's Future Bright, But.... (Press Enterprise: Sat. Oct. 13, 2007)

BS Ranch Perspective:

The bad part to this is that the growth of Redlands is going to be the death of the profits, and the eventual end to the airport itself!! So the people that enjoy the airport in Redlands, better hope that there are people that enjoy and are willing to fight to keep their small airport!!

It will be interesting to see what happens!!!

BS Ranch

Redlands airport's future bright, but . . .

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10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, October 13, 2007
The Press-Enterprise

REDLANDS - From one angle, the future of Redlands Municipal Airport looks bright, with the last fiscal year finishing in the black after years of deficits.

More good news may come if the Rialto airport closes and some of its planes move to Redlands. But a development in northeast Redlands near the airport could mean trouble for the airport's longevity, experts say.

The fiscal year that ended in June saw the Redlands airport $25,000 in the black, which included $128,000 in debt service to the Solid Waste Division, said Gary Van Dorst, the airport's de facto manager and interim head of the city's Quality of Life Department.

That positive balance followed what Van Dorst estimated were 15 to 20 years of deficits, the result of the city signing ground-lease agreements at below market value, Van Dorst said.

In Redlands' case, a ground lease means the city owns the land but leases it to others who might own the building or hangar that sits on that land.

The city has eliminated a below-market ground-lease agreement involving 29 hangars and purchased the hangars, meaning the city now owns about 20 percent of the airport's approximately 150 hangars, Van Dorst said.

Van Dorst said an update of the airport's master plan could include a strategy for acquiring more of the airport's hangars.

Land leases are best avoided if possible, as they can support the misconception that small airports can't turn a profit, said Bob Cable, president of Upland-based Cable Airport Inc.

"It's a short-term fix to put money in your coffers," Cable said.

While long-term land leases return an immediate profit, they become less valuable as the land rises in value and the original lease terms remain in place, Cable said.

Rich Scanlan, Rialto's director of aviation and solid waste management, said the Redlands airport has a chance to tap into a growing market.

With a slew of commercial airline pilots retiring, small airports like Redlands Municipal could train aspiring commercial airline pilots, Scanlan said.

The pending closure of Rialto's airport might also benefit Redlands, Scanlan said. Only about 13 percent of the pilots based in Rialto live there, Scanlan said, so it may be more convenient for them to go to Redlands than to an expanding San Bernardino International Airport or elsewhere.

A bigger obstacle to the Redlands airport's long-term success could be development, Scanlan said.

While the airport benefits from the Santa Ana River wash -- a natural buffer -- to the north, the land to the south allows for development, Scanlan said.

"It's a scenario that's been played out over and over," Scanlan said. He called airports "magnets for development," which eventually dictates the airport's operations.

It begins with noise complaints from residents in nearby homes that can lead to curfews imposed by city councils wanting to respond to voters, Scanlan said.

"Airports tend to occupy a lot of land and impact a lot of land they don't occupy," Scanlan said.

In Redlands, an 81-home development in two tracts southwest of the airport is coming along, slowly, said Everett Hughes, president of Walton Development.

Two conditional-use permits for the development and a zoning change were approved in mid-2006 by 3-2 council votes.

"The problem is noise," said Redlands Councilman Mick Gallagher, one of those who voted no on the Walton issue.

Complaints about noise or other nuisances from the eventual residents of the development might not bode well for the airport, Gallagher said.

"The only thing that can happen is, the airport will eventually have to go," Gallagher said. "That's really too bad."

Hughes dismissed those concerns.

The homes would be at least 2,000 feet south of the runway and some Redlands pilots might even buy there, he said.

"There's nothing to that," Hughes said of the concerns.

Reach Adam C. Hartmann at 909-806-3055 or

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