Aldermen approved upping the ante on the amount of money needed to spend for a third appraisal that will determine the highest and best use of the St. Clair Regional Airport land.
The additional appraisal is required by Federal Aviation Administration officials as the first of four steps the city must take if it wants to have a chance to close the local facility to make room for proposed retail development on the 80-acre site located on the north side of the city between Interstate 44 and Highway 47.
The FAA must approve the closure since the city used federal grants, the last in 2006, for airport improvements.
During last Monday’s board of aldermen meeting, City Administrator Rick Childers reminded the aldermen that the third appraisal is a requirement and told them that more money is needed to get it done.
“We’ve already done two appraisals,” Childers said. “And we asked the board earlier to approve up to $1,500 for the third. It’s (amount) a little higher than that. The one proposal submitted has a total fee of $5,000 payable upon completion.”
The aldermen approved the lower amount during an April board meeting, and a request for proposals was sent to a handful of commercial real estate appraisers. Only one proposal was submitted back to the city, and it was from Lauer Appraisal Co. of St. Louis.
“They do have experience doing what we are looking for,” Childers said, adding that QED Airport & Aviation consultant Ron Price stated that the $5,000 appraisal bid price was “not out of line.”
According to the submitted proposal, Lauer has conducted appraisals for several banks, St. Louis County and the state of Missouri, the cities of St. Louis and St. Charles, the Veterans Administration and the U.S. General Services Administration.
“The appraisal will be prepared in a self-contained format utilizing the sales comparison approach to value the property on an ‘as is’ basis,” Lauer President Russell J. Lauer wrote in his appraisal bid to the city. “We have appraised property for the expansion of Lambert St. Louis International Airport and for the acquisition of leased land under Spirit of St. Louis Airport. We have also recently completed an appraisal of land for the Veterans Administration that also met the state (seller) and federal (buyer) appraisal requirements.”
Lauer, whose company has been in the real estate appraisal profession since 1986, said the completed appraisal should be able to be submitted to the city by the end of June.
Childers and Mayor Ron Blum also said the $5,000 would be a “recoverable expense” upon closure of the airport.
“The FAA has told us that,” Blum said.
Before the board unanimously voted to approve the $5,000 for the appraisal and to have Lauer conduct it, Childers said he could again attempt to contact other appraisers in an effort to get additional bids.
“It’s about a four- to six-week process to do that,” he said. “But I think it’s in our best interests to move forward.”
The aldermen agreed.
“I don’t have a problem moving forward with this now,” Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate said. “I think if it’s reimbursable, we can make the decision to do it now at this price.”
The motion then was made, seconded and approved.
Before the city sent out the bid proposal requests for the appraisal, local officials worked with the FAA on the language needed to make sure the federal agency was satisfied with what the city was seeking and that it follows specific specifications.
Terminology centered on the appraisal being performed to determine the “highest and best use of the land.”
Childers told The Missourian that the FAA “provided us with very specific and detailed requirements for the appraisal to help get a clear idea of the value of the land at its ‘highest and best use.’”
Having another appraisal of the 80-acre parcel of land the airport sits on was the first of four points the FAA discussed with Blum when he met with federal officials in late March in Washington, D.C., regarding the city’s process to close the facility.
The FAA’s other three points were the city providing a more complete explanation of what the net benefit to aviation will be by closing the airport, providing a history of the facility itself and noting why it has been lagging financially compared to other area airports, and showing why the city has not had the financial resources to fund the airport.
The city previously had two appraisals done on the property, and they were included in a 200-page closure document sent to state and federal officials last year. But the FAA mandated the third one to make sure it includes the highest and best use of the land.
On April 2, the aldermen unanimously approved spending up to $1,500 on the appraisal of the airport property.
“The appraisal needs to be on proper FAA forms for them to formally approve it,” Blum said during that meeting.