COLUMBIA — For the Columbia Regional Airport to fulfill the 20-year improvements in its master plan, it might need to acquire 50 acres of a family farm established in 1911.
Within the next five years, the airport aims to acquire a 50-acre tract of land near the intersection of Rangeline Road and East Route H owned by heirs of the Sally Phillips Trust, which originally consisted of Phillips' four daughters: Artie, Laura, Martha and Rebecca.
Local residents and neighbors of the airport were invited to a public workshop Wednesday night to learn more about the airport's master plan process and proposals. Members of the Phillips family's trust were in attendance.
Marla Martin of St. Charles is an heir of the trust and the daughter of the only surviving member of the original trust. Martin said the family was not even aware of the proposed acquisition until a few weeks ago, when all residents of the area received notices in the mail about the airport's development plan and information about Wednesday's workshop.
Of the family's 215 remaining acres, the 50-acre tract is part of the most valuable farming land, Martin said.
"Unfortunately, it's the most tillable and productive part of the farm," she said. "It was clear 30 years ago that the airport was going to affect our farm. I fully expected this long ago, but it seems as if it just popped up out of the blue."
Martin said that the family's next step will be "analyzing the process used by the government entities that initiate the eminent domain."
"The best you can hope for is to make a fair deal for your situation," she said.
Another neighbor to the airport, Jim Starr, said he wishes the details of the airport's development were more concrete.
Starr operates his family's 400-acre farm, which has existed since 1936, and has been taking care of it for the past 30 years. Although Starr's land is not currently impacted in the preliminary plans, it could be if the relocation of Rangeline Road cuts through his property.
"I would like to know so we can plan farming activities, because I'd like to spend some money on some terrace work but that would be a waste of money if there could be a road that goes through there in a couple of years," Starr said.
The realignment of the Rangeline Road and East Route H intersection is on the airport's five-year radar to accommodate an expanding property line and main runway extension.
Starr said that for the past four or five years he's barely even noticed the airport, but that will change if repair and new construction for the master plan takes place in the next five years.
Earlier Wednesday, the Airport Advisory Board voted to send the master plan to the City Council for a public hearing. The council must still approve all proposed actions in the master plan.
The master plan contains a list of capital improvement projects for the next 20 years as well as a layout plan — 14 drawings depicting major facility improvements. The Federal Aviation Administration must also approve the layout plan, which will be available on the airport's Web site in the next week or two.
The board approved plans that would extend the north side of the main runway by 900 feet and shift the crosswind runway east, one of 10 design possibilities. The crosswind runway will also need pavement repairs and will provide service while the primary runway is being improved, said Jeff Smith, a senior aviation consultant with Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., the project consultant team.
Visibility was also an important factor when making decisions about the runway. The FAA told the airport it needed to resolve line of sight issues between its runways before presenting an ALP. Smith said the crosswind will be shifted to the east to resolve visibility issues.
The FAA requires its own approval process, including an environment assessment, before it will even consider helping to pay for the airport improvements.
Airport Manager Kathy Frerking said the airport plans to use FAA funding for the runway improvements, and anticipates the agency to cover 95 percent of the cost.
Frerking said the city would be responsible for the remaining 5 percent and that the Missouri Department of Transportation might be approached for funding as well.
The airport's capital improvements also need to be approved by the council before being sent to the FAA, which caused some concern among board members about whether the council would approve the dollar amounts associated with the projects.
"I don't think they're going to balk at it," Columbia Public Works Director John Glascock said.
The airport's master plan will probably come before the City Council for a public hearing at the council's Sept. 21 meeting, Frerking said.