Redevelopment Commission and Aviation Board supportive of Walesboro proposal

Work is set to get underway on the first phase of redevelopment of property at the former airport in Walesboro.

Chris Hamm and Sean Downey, with HWC Engineering, made a presentation Monday evening during a meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission and Aviation Board. The pair agreed that the property would be a good spot for a mix of manufacturing, research and development and a commercial district. They then spent the meeting discussing the original 2012 Master Plan for the former airport property, then unveiled HWC’s proposed development plan. Hamm did suggest a possible relocation of the commercial district from the north side of the property to the south.

HWC’s overall plan calls for the development of 509 acres over five phases at a total cost of $45,080,706. The Redevelopment Commission indicated that it was supportive of a plan to begin the first phase, Phase 1A, as soon as possible. HWC says that Phase 1A comprises 82.4 acres at a cost of $6,680,492.

The future of the project depends on a variety of factors. One that could cause it to be scrapped, or severely altered, is the property’s current designation of being in a flood plain. HWC representatives, as well as Mayor Kristen Brown, have indicated that they are fairly confident that the property will, ultimately, be removed from flood plain maps. However, they say that may require the need for all parcels on the property to have a storm water management plan in place. Another issue that could potentially threaten the project is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). City officials say that the federal government has ultimate jurisdiction over any, and all, airport property in the United States, even if the airport has been decommissioned. Again, city officials, including Aviation Board Chairman Caleb Tennis, have indicated that they don’t expect problems in getting approval to move forward with the project.

The Redevelopment Commission took no official action during its meeting on Monday night. More details, including an update on the project, is expected to be unveiled at the commission’s next meeting in January. All voting members of the Redevelopment Commission will see their terms end on Dec. 31. Some members may return under incoming-Mayor Jim Lienhoop, but it will ultimately be up the Mayor-Elect to fill three spots and the City Council to fill two. Robert Abrams, a non-voting member of the Redevelopment Commission, was appointed by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation. His term last through 2016.