Curry County Commissioners David Brock Smith and David Itzen again overrode Commissioner Susan Brown in a decision to Wednesday to approve the annexation of the Brookings Airport into the city of Brookings.
The approval, however comes with the stipulation that if the city decides to put the airport into its Urban Renewal Area (URA), all economic development projects must be approved by both commissioners and the city council.
The stipulation was included because when land is placed into a URA and assessed for tax purposes, any future assessment increases — a maximum of 3 percent a year — go to the city’s URA fund, and none to the county or other taxing districts.
URAs are created to make improvements to “blighted” areas, and Brookings is the only city that has such a district in Curry County. They are typically in place for 15 years; Brookings’ was established in August 2002.
The county lost out on $30,000 last year alone on revenue that could have been collected for county services but instead went to the URA, county Finance Director Jim Kolen said. Schools lost $543,000 last year.
The city wants to annex 157.62 acres of land — of which the county-owned property is 95.8 acres — into the city boundaries so it can proceed with plans to construct a 1-million-gallon water tank to serve the airport, surrounding neighborhoods and future growth.
The city received a $1.7 million grant to build the water tank and lines to augment the city’s system, which currently doesn’t provide enough water pressure at the airport. As part of the grant, the city must pony up $1 million, which it will recoup from existing neighborhoods and future development that taps into that infrastructure.
City ordinance requires any property served by water or sewer lines be within city boundaries.
Commissioner Susan Brown voted against the annexation saying that she still didn’t see why the county couldn’t keep its airport lands in the county and craft Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGAs) to allow the city’s new sewer and water infrastructure to cross its property.
“The airport doesn’t have to be annexed in order to have the project go forward,” she said. “We could do it with IGAs and a change in the (city’s) ordinance. The county could give easements for access across the airport.”
That way, the county would maintain control over the 25.5 acres of land that is not part of the airport and guide future development — and reap any tax benefits — there. The county continues to own the airport, regardless.
Seven property owners, who own 54.4 acres of land there, have agreed to the annexation, even though it will mean higher property taxes for city services.
“We’ve been through at least four meetings on this issue,” Smith said. “This is part of the city of Brookings’ comprehensive plan. This is a good thing for the city of Brookings and it will be beneficial for the county’s economic recovery.”
Commissioners have said they suspect the city would ultimately like to own the airport. But County Attorney Jerry Herbage noted that for that to occur, the state would have to approve, as it has the first right of refusal in such a sale.
City Manager Gary Milliman said he would report the county’s decision at the city’s next meeting, March 11, at which point city staff could begin annexation proceedings.