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Warren County makes deals for airport land

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County won't need to use eminent domain to take land for its airport.

The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved the purchase of property owned by Brainard T. and Rebecca Sue Coffey and by James D. and Julie E. Curry adjacent to the Warren County Airport. The action also called for the county to approve the contract and to accept the property deeds from the owners.

The board canceled two public hearings on a proposal to seek to acquire the private property through eminent domain or condemnation. County Attorney Blair Mitchell told supervisors he and other county officials reached agreements with the owners prior to the meeting.

"I mean going to court is always stressful for everybody," Mitchell said Wednesday. "It's not pleasant for anybody, for either side. So it's always better when you can come to an agreement."

The county hasn't set a date yet to finalize the purchases but it could happen in the next few weeks. A title company will schedule a time to close on the acquisition once it does the necessary research, Mitchell said.

The board had scheduled the hearings several weeks ago because the county faced a looming Federal Aviation Administration deadline to acquire the land and rid the flight clearances of trees and other protrusions. Mitchell at the time said the county was still negotiating with the property owners. The county already had reached deals with other property owners for land and easements.

Under the contract with the Coffeys, the county will pay $310,000 for 4.3 acres of land, an avigation easement of 0.18 acres and an access easement of 20 feet by 450 feet. The county will use $101,320 in grants from the FAA and the Virginia Department of Aviation and cover the remaining amount with local funds. The Coffey's land lies to the south of the airport.

Under the contract with the Currys, the county will pay $80,000 for 1.55 acres of land, an avigation easement of 1.54 acres and an access easement of 0.08 acres. The county will use $64,157 in grants and cover the remaining $15,843 with local money.

Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said Wednesday the local share would come from the general fund. Childress said the county may likely need to replace these funds later in the year with money from reserves, though he said he hopes more grants may become available to offset the local cost.

Without the land and easements the county can't clear trees from the flight clearance as required by the FAA. Board Chairman Daniel Murray Jr. last month said the county could face losing the full use of its airport if it did not meet the agency's requirements. The county has until February to comply.

At a previous meeting the board approved the purchase of less than an acre of land from Gregory Grigsby. The county began its work in 2007 by holding information meetings on the matter. The county began negotiations with property owners in 2011. Since then, the board reached deals with all but a few property owners and approved the purchases of land and easements. The county has paid between $10,000 and $50,000 for the needed property with most of the purchase price covered by state and federal funds.

The county also needs to build three, lattice-type towers, each 50-feet to 70-feet high with red beacons at the top. The towers will mark the outer edges of the boundary easements and aid pilots in landings and flights around the airport, Mitchell explained. Easements still allow property owners to use the land as they wish as long as the county can access the land to keep obstructions out of the flight clearance.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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