Decatur County to purchase nearly $1 million worth of land near airport

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to acquire six separate parcels of land adjacent to the Decatur County Industrial Air Park.

The purchase of the property occurred at the urging of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation. All the affected parcels were considered commercial “through-the-fence” operations and not within FAA guidelines.

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In a letter dated December 8, 2014, the GDOT informed then county commission chairman Frank Loeffler that “A through-the-fence operation usually occurs when the owner of an airport has allowed access to public aviation facilities by aircraft based on land not designated as airport property.”

“The FAA and Georgia Department of Transportation, do not encourage, condone, or support through-the-fence operations,” wrote Carol Comer, Director of Intermodal Division at the GDOT.

Further, the letter stated, “Through-the-fence operations have the potential to violate federal grant assurances and may affect airport safety.”

The parcels, along with any structures or improvements, acquired by the county commission total roughly 10 acres with a purchase price of $980,700. Ninety percent of the purchase price will be funded by the FAA, five percent by the GDOT, and the remaining five percent by the county commission.

According to Alan Thomas, Decatur County Administrator, the appraised value, with a ten percent variance, of the property was used to determine the purchase price.

The sellers of the property include: Bates Engineers and Mosquito Creek-T&T Farms at $200,200, Vladimir Vrzal at $258,500, two parcels owned by Nathan Harrell at $84,500, and two parcels owned by Harrell Manufacturing at $437,500.

The former property owners would have an opportunity to lease the property back from the county and those negotiations are ongoing.

Additional land purchases at the airport could occur in the future when and if funding from the federal and state program becomes available, according to Thomas.