The third appraisal of the value of the St. Clair Regional Airport property, mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the city’s closure plan, has put a price tag of $520,000 on the land and has deemed that the highest and best use of the 80-acre property would be for commercial use.
The appraisal, conducted by the Lauer Appraisal Service of St. Louis, was received by the city earlier this week.
“This tells me appraisals are an estimate of value,” City Administrator Rick Childers told The Missourian on Thursday. “Real value of property is determined by the sale price.”
The third appraisal was required by FAA 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.
Lauer’s appraisal came to the same conclusion about the highest and best use of the land both as vacant or improved.
“Based on the uses for the subject site which have been considered physically possible, legally permissible and financially feasible, it is our opinion that the highest and best use of the subject site as if vacant and available for development would be for commercial use,” the appraisal document reads. “... Based on foregoing analysis, in the appraiser’s opinion, the highest and best use of the subject property is for commercial redevelopment.”
Before the city sent out bid proposal requests for the appraisal and accepted Lauer’s, 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” and to estimate its value.
Childers told The Missourian at that time 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.’”
The city followed those recommendations and received FAA approval on the language before appraisers were sought.
“The FAA approved the request for proposals, and everything they wanted was in that request,” Childers said on Thursday. “The appraisal was performed under what was requested by them. That should mean it meets FAA standards.”
Ron Price, the city’s airport consultant from QED Airport and Aviation Consultants, reviewed the audit. Childers said Price told him the 70-page document was a “sound and thorough” appraisal.
Childers said he emailed a copy of the document to FAA officials and also is sending one through regular mail.
Having another appraisal of the 80-acre parcel of land the airport sits on was discussed as the top priority when Mayor Ron Blum met with several FAA 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.
The other two appraisals came back at $948,500 and $420,000.
Childers and Mayor Ron Blum said they occasionally have been conducting teleconference meetings with FAA officials in Washington, D.C., to keep each other up to speed. Another one of those meetings was scheduled on Friday, and the city officials hope they are told what to do next in regard to closing the facility.
The St. Clair Board of Aldermen are scheduled to discuss the appraisal when it meets at 7 p.m. on Monday in city hall.