Despite opposition from private landowners, the Columbia City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a plan to buy land at Columbia Regional Airport.
The proposal, which was outlined in the 2002 Airport Master Plan, will consist of three separate tracts of land totaling roughly 61 acres of mostly pasture land.
The purchase of the land would make the airport viable for future growth, said John Glascock, director of public works. For example, if the airport wanted to increase the transport of cargo, the runway would need to be expanded, Glascock said.
Jill Stedem, public information specialist for the Columbia Public Works Department, said that no specific plans are in place for land development, but potential exists for increased air cargo and commercial air service.
Jane Rippeto, owner of one of the properties, opposes the city’s plan. She says that her land is not for sale and does not think that the city will develop anything on her property.
“The airport will never use the land,” Rippeto said. “I’m not anti-airport, just anti-taking my land.”
Rippeto said that under the plan, the city would not only take away about 30 percent of her land, but also that the remaining 70 percent would lose its value.
Mayor Darwin Hindman said the city would pay full market value for the property.
Federal Aviation Administration grants would be available to reimburse the city for 95 percent of the costs.
“It’s good to get the purchase done now,” said Ken Eftink, city of Ashland administrator. “The city should do it before industry purchases it.”
Eftink said that Ashland does not object to the purchase of the property.
Randy Eckley, Ashland appointee to the Columbia Regional Airport Advisory Board, said the plan ensures that land use is compatible with aviation and also attracts businesses.
“We would have made a mistake for the future if we don’t do this,” Hindman said.