Regarding "Gillespie Field gets ready for takeoff with Aerotropolis redevelopment," (The Daily Transcript, Aug. 28), I am a member of Advocates for Safe Airport Policies. I am a CPA and have done forensic accounting for the past 45 years.
I recently drove the perimeter of Gillespie Field. I found over 30 “for lease” or “for sale” signs and I found over 700,000 square feet available, space that has been available for quite some time. So where’s the economic engine? Do we really need to build more?
I also found that there are two large churches, occupying many thousands of square feet at the perimeter of Gillespie. The reason those churches are there is because the space is cheap. The churches are tax exempt and employ very few people. So where’s the economic engine?
Furthermore, the lease rates for hangars paid at Gillespie are quite low, far below fair-market value. An appraisal was undertaken in 2010 to determine the fair amount of rent to be charged. The appraiser suggested a fair rate of rent of $1,200 per acre per month for 2010.
The Council took this rental rate of $1,200 for 2010 and will phase it in over a nine-year period. Therefore, the 2010 fair market rent of $1,200 will not be reached until 2019, when rates will surely be much higher (I have a copy of the appraisal and the lease increases). Many leaseholders simply sublet these hangars to others at much higher lease rates. So where’s the economic engine?
It has also come to light that numerous lessees at Gillespie were storing RVs (I have photos), boats, equipment or even running a small business out of these hangars, completely against the rules. The lease rates are much lower than if they rented similar space at another location.
When we questioned several of the lessees, they indicated that they simply put some kind of aviation sign out the front door of the hangar and were in compliance. Since I brought this up, I am now told that this situation is being rectified, which simply means there will be more vacancies. So where’s the economic engine?
In June 2012 the Board of Supervisors agreed to the expansion of 70 acres at Gillespie Field. Supervisor Dianne Jacob noted that Gillespie has a preponderance of flight schools and stipulated that no more flight schools be added. Gillespie currently has from 9 to 11 schools. This is far more than at any of the other surrounding airports.
In fact, several schools of 2012 have relocated to Gillespie because of the favorable lease rates and lack of rules. One of the larger schools is foreign owned and thus any profits do not even stay locally. So where’s the economic engine?
In September I attended a workshop that explained the proposal process with respect to this 70-acre development. The only attendees that showed any interest in future development were the flight schools. So where’s the economic engine? Where are the light industry and other businesses we keep hearing about? Do we really need to build more?
The so-called aerotropolis is nothing more than a smoke screen for more foreign flight schools. Take a drive around Gillespie Field and check it out for yourself.