An advertising sign to be placed at the former site of the airport was approved by the St. Clair Board of Aldermen at a recent meeting.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of a signage proposal from Ziglin Signs in the amount of $6,297.34. The sign will be 10 feet by 15 feet on the former airport property advertising 80 acres of land is available for development. The sign would face Interstate 44.

Alderwoman Janet Viehland asked if there have been studies done on the effectiveness of land signs.

“You never know a property’s available until you see a sign letting you know,” Mayor Ron Blum said. “It’s similar to a house for sale. Most realtors will put a house sign up to let passersby know that property is available.”

Viehland asked if the property is listed for sale anywhere else.

“No, the only thing we have done to this point is open it to developers,” Blum said.

Alderwoman Jamie Frossard asked if the property is advertised on any commercial real estate websites. City Administrator Travis Dierker said the land is not listed online.

“We’re not just going to put the 80 acres up for sale and just let somebody come and purchase it, and do what they want with it,” he said.

“There’s going to be some restrictions and the goal is to obviously develop the land, that’s why it doesn’t say 80 acres of land for sale, it says 80 acres available for development.”

Dierker added that the word has spread already to developers about the land being available.

Background

The airport officially closed in November 2017. The closure had been in the works since 2006, when city officials started pushing for legislation that would allow them to close the airport.

Former Sen. Claire McCaskill sponsored SB 2759, which she introduced to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 31, 2014, during the 113th session of Congress.

It passed out of that committee without comment and was forwarded to the full Senate that September. Sen. Roy Blunt co-sponsored the bill.

The Senate approved the legislation in early December of 2014, and the House of Representatives approved it Dec. 9. In both chambers, the measure passed on a voice vote. U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer worked the bill through the House.

Online information about the bill states it was passed by both chambers in identical form.

SB 2759 states that it is “a bill to release the city of St. Clair from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”

Additional language in the bill provides details regarding the closure process and the transfer of assets, revenues and equipment as well as the monetary value of the property and the worth of the unamortized federal grants turned over to MoDOT and the FAA.

The legislation is a stand-alone bill, meaning there is nothing else attached to it. Former President Barack Obama signed the bill Dec. 12, 2014.

The closure had been a priority of Blum’s administration since he first took office in 2007. His goal is to have the land developed for retail use, but there also could be some industry developed on the 135 acres of property, all located within city limits.

The land where the airport sits, between Interstate 44 and Highway 47 on the north side of the city, is included in a tax increment financing district that was approved by the board of aldermen in 2009.

A TIF is a public financing method for municipalities using future gains in taxes to finance current improvements which theoretically will create the conditions for those future gains. It allows for redevelopment and community improvement projects.

In May 2017, an environmental assessment necessary to close the airport was completed. A “finding of no significant impact” notice for the airport’s environmental assessment can be found at the St. Clair Scenic Regional Library and through the Federal Aviation Administration.

As part of the closing process, the land had to meet the requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

One of the requirements included an environmental assessment that would check the ground for wetlands, artifacts, endangered species, hazardous waste and other issues that could impact the ground. In 2015, the city hired a company to perform an environmental assessment.

During an October 2017 meeting, the board approved a release agreement ordinance with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration for the permanent closure of the airport.

The ordinance states that the city met all of the requirements in the closing process and all parties are in agreement of the closure.

The board also approved an agreement with Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the transfers and disposition of airport equipment and facilities.