Kennewick’s Airport fate still undecided

The future of Vista Field as an airport is still hung up on whether the city of Kennewick has any right to share proceeds from development if it is closed.

Port of Kennewick commissioners want the city council to give up all potential claims before they decide on keeping the airstrip or converting it into raw land available for commercial, office and retail development.

The council considered the port’s request Tuesday, weighing whether it was wise to surrender the right to control zoning on the land and to claim a share of proceeds if port officials choose to market the property to developers.

“There’s a lot of perception the city has involvement (in what happens with Vista Field),” said Bob Hammond, Kennewick city manager.

“But in reality there is very little for the city to “hang onto.” We need to make it clear to everyone we don’t have any authority over the airport,” Hammond told the council at its workshop.

David Hanson, port president, wrote to the city that commissioners are reluctant to make any decision about the airport until two sticky issues in an agreement between the city and port relating to the 92 acres of airport land are resolved.

The agreement was created when the city gave the land to the port on the condition that it be operated as an airport. The original agreement said the land would revert to the city if the port decided to stop managing the property as an airport.

The port was considering closing the airport last year but balked because of the reversionary clause in the agreement. The council responded by deleting that condition.

But now port officials want two more provisions in the agreement jettisoned: the zoning control and the city’s financial share in any proceeds from land sales involving airport property.

“Failure to remove these provisions leave us with a concern that the city could expect to share in any revenues related to closure. That would be a non-starter,” wrote Hanson in a letter to Kennewick Mayor Tom Moak.

“If this will expedite the port’s decision, then I’m all for it,” said Steve Young, councilman.

Hammond said leaving the two provisions in the agreement was “confusing.” He said taking them out would cause no problems legally because the council had previously rescinded its reversionary rights to the property.

“It would be removing a stumbling block,” Hammond said, noting that he will bring a proposal and motion for the council to consider in a vote in late September.

Hanson’s letter said the port commission will wait for an answer. “Our final decision-making process (about closing the airport) cannot begin until this issue is resolved,” he said.

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