Friday, July 06, 2001

Blue Ash airport: bids vs. dibs

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE ASH — With negotiations stalled over sale of the Cincinnati-owned Blue Ash Airport to Blue Ash, Cincinnati City Councilman Pat DeWine says he supports offering the 226-acre property for sale through competitive bid.

        But it would be more than two years before any such deal could take place, because an agreement with the federal government gives Blue Ash “dibs” on the airport until September 2003.

        And Blue Ash officials remain determined to buy the site and keep the airstrip. They also want it improved with the addition of high-tech office space, aesthetic changes and a park.

        Negotiations between the two cities fell apart last month, shortly after they began. Cincinnati officials want $30 million for the prime real estate, $10 million more than Blue Ash was prepared to offer.

        Regardless of whether talks with Blue Ash pan out, Mr. DeWine said, “The wisest and best way to test the market is to find out what a developer will pay for it.

        “I hope what happens is a two-track process where we continue to negotiate with Blue Ash and also go through the process of being receptive to other offers for the property,” he said.

        Blue Ash has been trying to acquire the airport since 1987, but talks never reached face-to-face negotiations. The airport is south of Glendale-Milford Road between Plainfield Road and Reed Hartman Highway.

        Blue Ash Mayor Jim Sumner was disappointed the new effort has been unproductive.

        “The city (of Cincinnati) came in with an unreasonable price for the property,” Mr. Sumner said.

        Mr. Sumner said he has since contacted Mr. DeWine, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and Councilman Chris Monzel about reopening negotiations, “and I got no real response. ... I believe Cincinnati's desire is to stretch things out to 2003, consistent with the way they do many things: Why do it today if you can wait?”

        He said any effort by Blue Ash to resume talks likely will not occur until after December, when Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey has left his position, and a “strong mayor” has been elected.

        Blue Ash City Manager Marvin Thompson said Cincinnati is prohibited by stipulations in a Federal Aviation Administration grant from selling the airport to anyone other than Blue Ash until Sept. 27, 2003, when the grant expires.

        Elizabeth Isham Cory, spokeswoman for the FAA's Airport Division, Great Lakes Region, in Chicago, has told the Enquirer the FAA would not want to see the airport eliminated. “It is a very important reliever airport for that region and, therefore, to national airspace,” she said.

        Mr. DeWine said Cincinnati, in opening the property to competitive bid, would make it known the sale would not take effect until 2003. He said the city's plans for any development include keeping the airstrip operating.

        Mr. Thompson said Blue Ash does not object to Cincinnati keeping or selling the airport for development so long at it complies with the Blue Ash vision for the site:

        • That the airport is reduced to about 100 acres with significant aesthetic improvements.

        • That 75 acres be reserved for high-tech office space.

        • That 25 acres be set aside as a passive park.

        • That Glendale-Milford Road be widened and improved.


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