Port may put Vista Field on the market

City of Kennewick could get first dibs on land…..

If Kennewick wants to shut down Vista Field airport and develop the site, it may get the chance to do just that.

A day after Port of Kennewick commissioners were criticized for indecision on the airport issue, the port’s executive director suggested the port offer to sell Vista Field to the city.

“If I sound tired and frustrated, I am,” said Tim Arntzen, as he presented an update on Vista Field to port commissioners.

The city has been prodding the port to close the airport so the valuable property in the center of the city’s prime commercial area can be developed. But airport supporters have argued the facility by itself is a major economic driver and should be kept open.

On Monday, port and city officials met for what may have been the groups’ first-ever joint meeting to discuss projects of common interest including Vista Field. And while port officials expressed frustration that the airport issue was taking up all of their attention, city officials prodded the port to work with them to decide the airport’s future.

So Tuesday, Arntzen threw out the idea of selling the airport, with the city having first rights to buy.

Arntzen said the city should be offered the property because city leaders have shown interest in Vista Field and the city is the port’s economic development partner. And he said the city should be given 30 days to decide or the site could be offered to private buyers.

But Arntzen’s proposal is unlikely to go anywhere, because the city can’t buy the property, Kennewick City Manager Bob Hammond said later.

“We don’t have the statutory authority to buy property for anything other than public purposes,” Hammond said. He said running an airport is not part of the city’s responsibilities, and the city can’t buy property for redevelopment.

Mayor Tom Moak expressed frustration that the idea wasn’t discussed at the joint meeting Monday. Also, he said, the “take it or leave it” scenario is not in sync with the idea of working together on various projects that two port commissioners agreed to at the meeting.

Arntzen told port commissioners Tuesday that the best alternative for the port would be to sell the property for about $6 million, its estimated appraised value.

He said the Vista Field issue already has cost the port a lot in money and staff time at the expense of other projects like redevelopment of Columbia Drive. Selling it also would help the port avoid expenses it otherwise might have to incur closing or enhancing the small airport.

Both options would require the port to do an environmental review and change its master plan, a process that may take a minimum of six months and require spending about $150,00 for a consultant Arntzen said.

Source: Tri-City Herald


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