Thursday, April 27, 2017
Why Banning council voted to close municipal airport
By Gail Wesson
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise
Banning City Council voted to close the municipal airport, which could take a few years to accomplish.
It could take some years to accomplish, but Banning City Council took the first step Tuesday, April 25, to close its municipal airport.
The vote was 4-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Franklin dissenting. She opposed it because the city hasn’t recently explored what it would take to lure back business.
“We haven’t put anything into it,” she said, to attract business and tourists.
But her colleagues on the dais see better uses.
“How about a place for people to work,” said Councilman Don Peterson of the development potential. “It’s time that this albatross goes away.”
He suggested an unidentified developer the city is negotiating with would cover the $2.2 million or more cost to shut down the airport.
Mayor George Moyer, who serves with Peterson on an airport subcommittee, said the site has potential for industrial or inland port reuse, and the city manager and economic development director have participated in the discussions.
The council is open to reuse of the 154-acre site for economic development and ideas mentioned in a staff report and at the meeting included a logistics center with warehouses — the site is close to a freeway and rail lines — or perhaps an e-commerce hub.
The airport saw traffic drop 71.7 percent between 2010 and 2015, from 4,674 flights to 1,324, according to a report prepared for the city last year by a consultant.
Public Works Director Art Vela said the study was the latest in steps the city has taken, including consulting with the Federal Aviation Administration, that could lead to closure. He called it a “continuing conversation.”
While income from hangar rentals and fuel sales covers airport expenses, “We don’t generate enough to improve buildings which are not FAA eligible” for grants, Vela said.
The airport dates back to the 1940s and has a single, 5,200-foot runway, located south of the 10 Freeway and east of South Hathaway Street.
The commercially successful Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon and the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa are visible northeast of the airport.
Airport closures can take decades. Closure of Rialto Municipal Airport took nearly 20 years, and Santa Monica’s airport may close in a few years after decades of controversy.