Paulding airport authority approves land deal

Amid Paulding County’s efforts to commercialize its airport, a land deal involving 163 acres at the airport caught the attention of the FAA and has raised hackles at Atlanta City Hall.

It traces back to a massive land purchase the city of Atlanta made in Paulding in the 1970s for a potential second airport. The city eventually sold a piece of the land to Paulding County “in the interest of fostering partnership” as the county developed a general aviation airport.

That partnership has deteriorated, as Paulding works to develop a second commercial airport in the metro area that could offer limited competition to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International. An environmental assessment must be completed before the Paulding airport can be commercialized, which is not expected to happen until next year.

The city of Atlanta’s position is that according to the 2007 land deal, the 163 acres cannot be used for a commercial airport — “yet we understand the PCAA and the County envision just that,” wrote Candace Byrd, chief of staff for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in a letter to the Paulding County Airport Authority earlier this month.

In a statement Wednesday, the city said it continues to believe commercialization plans are “a material breach” of the contract, adding that the city reserves its right to initiate litigation.

The letter was a reiteration of the city’s position after the city learned Paulding County planned to transfer the 163 acres to the Paulding airport authority.

The airport authority “should not accept transfer of this property” with the expectation that it will be used for commercial aviation, Byrd’s letter said. She added that “the City expressly reserves its rights to challenge” the land transfer and the use of the land for commercial aviation.

Paulding officials, for their part, say the city doesn’t have the right to control use of the property.

After an attorney for Paulding residents earlier this month contended the transfer of land should have first been approved by the FAA, the FAA asked to meet with the county to discuss the land deal.

After meeting with the FAA, the Paulding board of commissioners moved to make the airport authority a co-sponsor of the airport. Swafford told the board of commissioners that the sponsorship would clarify the airport’s role for the purpose of receiving federal grants.

Yet there is another reason. Swafford also said in an interview after the meeting that with the sponsorship, the land deal does not require the FAA’s approval. He said that’s because the land will change hands between two sponsors of the airport.

The airport authority approved an agreement Wednesday morning including the land deal as part of a broad shift of control of the airport from the county to the airport authority.

Swafford said the land deal would be finalized after the FAA reviewed the sponsorship.

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