New offer delays airport plan

Golf course owner makes 11th hour proposals

HUDSON—Rumor had it that something new might be added to the February 12 Board of Supervisors Airport Committee meeting, and in this instance, the rumor proved true.

“I had heard that something might be in the works,” said Committee Chairman Art Bassin (D-Ancram) after the meeting. But no one had told him that Carmen Nero, who with partners owns the Meadowgreens Golf Course on Route 9H, just north of the Columbia County Airport, would arrive at the 4 p.m. meeting 15 minutes after its start with a five-page letter describing four proposals that CN Production Management Enterprises, LLC, was “willing to undertake” in order to work with the county on establishing a Runway Protection Zone on Meadowgreens property.

Over the last three months, the committee has held lengthy public meetings with input from different sources and developed a draft proposal for a the protection zone that apparently does not require any land or other interaction with Meadowgreens and its owners. The agenda for February 12 was to review the proposal one more time before presenting it to a special meeting of the full Board of Supervisors for their vote later that day.

That vote by the board was postponed and the committee is now considering Mr. Nero’s proposals and will discuss them at its next meeting, Monday, February 24, at 3 p.m. at 401 State Street.

Mr. Bassin read the four proposals to the Airport Committee and again to the full Board of Supervisors.

The proposals, “in the order of priority,” according to the letter, are: 1) Columbia County buys the entire Meadowgreens property for “a value to be determined by appraisal”; 2) Columbia County pays CN Production $629,000 for 15 acres of land and 90 acres of what are called avigation easements, and swaps land of commensurate value from CN Production that Mr. Nero believes the county would need if it pursues the committee’s plan; 3) Columbia County pays CN Production $629,000 for the 15 acres and avigation easement plus the cost of refiguring the golf course, which Mr. Bassin said would result in a total cost to the county of about $1 million; or 4) Columbia County does none of the three options but instead leaves CN Production alone, including not requesting further avigation easements.

As for the first option, Mr. Bassin told The Columbia Paper, “I don’t think the county and Mr. Nero could agree on a price. The county can’t pay more than a fair-market value, depending on appraisals,” and the state and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would have to agree on the price.

Mr. Nero previously rejected the county’s offer of $629,000 for the part of the golf course that officials initially thought they needed to create the protection zone. The committee’s plan would require little or no land now part of Meadowgreens.

In addition, Mr. Bassin said, “The county doesn’t need a golf course. It does need avigation easements over the Meadowgreens property.” The current avigation easements, which give the county the right to do anything on the land required to meet airport safety rules, date from 1966; Mr. Nero purchased the property with those easements in effect.

David Robinson, county commissioner of public works, is researching what the current easements allow and whether the easements need to be upgraded for the county to pursue its revised plans for the airport safety zone. The committee plans to discuss this question at its next meeting.

In response to a question from Sam Pratt, who has been reporting on the airport proposal in his blog, Mr. Nero said at last week’s committee meeting that if Columbia County buys Meadowgreens, he would want to retain development rights on the property.

“It’s a large tract of land,” he said, adding that he wants to turn it into a “high-end luxury resort” that will help fulfill Columbia County’s need for hotel rooms.

After the meeting Mr. Bassin said that the fourth option–leaving Mr. Nero and his property alone–is interesting. “Effectively, that’s what we’ve done for the last seven or eight years. Because the Meadowgreens land is in a runway protection zone, the FAA has guidelines on what can and cannot be constructed there. The question about what Mr. Nero could build there would be for the FAA, not for Columbia County.”

In a brief cover letter with his proposal, Mr. Nero wrote, “The obvious choice for everyone involved would be to establish the safety zone requirements on our property.” But that was not the choice made by a bi-partisan majority of the Airport Committee. At the Board of Supervisors meeting that followed the committee meeting last week, committee members Art Baer (D-Hillsdale), Michael Benvenuto (R-Ghent) and John Porreca (R-Greenport) supported the draft resolution they had intended to put before the full board. The resolution, which makes no mention of Meadowgreens, authorizes the committee and the county commissioner of public works to work with C&S Engineering to secure preliminary approval for a runway safety zone based on shifting the runway south and reducing the runway’s length from 5,350 to not more than 5,000 feet. The committee expects that approach would not require obtaining golf course land and might cost less.

If the FAA gives the committee’s plan preliminary approval, the resolution would authorize the committee and the commissioner to develop a grant application to the FAA for funds to plan the environmental and engineering work for optimum runway and safety zone configurations.

In addition to supporting the resolution, Mr. Porreca noted that Columbia County “is at a crossroads now. There are other issues” for the supervisors to deal with “such as Pine Haven—I don’t know where we’ll go with that. We’ll look at [Mr. Nero’s] letter, in public, and discuss it. Personally,” he added, “I didn’t want to delay the vote. I thought we should vote tonight. But OK, we’ll wait another month.”

Despite the months of meetings and the collection of facts, Mr. Bassin agreed. “To be fair to Mr. Nero and the county, we need to take a look at the resolution and see if these proposals have any effect on it.”

But, he added, “We did our homework, we all agree, we have the right answer for the runway safety zone. Carmen Nero’s proposals don’t change that.” The resolution, he predicted, “will stand the test.”

 

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