Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority considering buying 76 acres of farmland

cschelle@bradenton.comSeptember 13, 2013 

TALLEVAST -- The Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority is looking to pick up 76 acres owned by the estate of a Tallevast Road pioneer.

The land in consideration at 2105 Tallevast Road is owned by the Estate of Heidi Boothe, the philanthropist who bequeathed $3 million in combination of money and 100 acres of land to New College of Florida.

Boothe died in 2011 at the age of 90 and managed a cattle farm on Tallevast Road and was also one of the first woman pilots in the Sarasota Flying Club, according to her obituary.

The airport authority will consider the purchase of the land for $1.8 million at its 1 p.m. Monday meeting at the Dan P. McClure Auditorium, 5900 Airport Auditorium Lane.

A land purchase would help protect the approach of Runway 22 at the airport from having homes developed there or other incompatible uses, said Frederick "Rick" Piccolo, president and chief executive officer of the airport.

"When you look at it from the aerial, this is the only area where there is a lot of vacant land that could be developed for the future," Piccolo said. "I think what we would like to do, since it's zoned for light manufacturing and heavy manufacturing, is to have a compatible use and like to see it developed."

The airport invests in real estate to buy and develop land to protect its interests and security as well as providing a source of income, Piccolo said. The airport already owns more than 100 acres around the airport, including a commerce center, hotel land, and is in the process of acquiring land along U.S. 41

and also is working to build a new air traffic control tower so infield land can be developed for hotels and commercial use.

The airport needs the revenue because it lacks taxing authority, he said.

"That derives revenue over the longterm," Piccolo said. "This sets us up for the next 10 to 20 years."

The Boothe parcel touches 37.7 acres of land purchased by Manatee County government for a new Manatee County Area Transit headquarters, replacing its facilities at 1108 26th Ave. E.

The land was under contract with Carlos Beruff, an airport authority board member and land developer who owns Medallion Home nearby, but Beruff decided to assign the contract over to the airport for no financial consideration. He will not make any money off the deal, Piccolo said.

"He's not getting a nickel out of this," he said.

Beruff approached the airport staff and asked if the authority would be interested, and after agreeing, Beruff helped negotiate the deal for a better price, Piccolo said.

The land is appraised at $2.6 million, and the airport authority is considering whether to buy it for nearly a million less.

In comparison, Manatee County paid $4.5 million for the 37 acres next to the property.

Authority board member Dr. Gary Kompothecras said the airport's deal is fantastic.

"I was always an advocate for buying land around the airport for future growth and it helps sustains the debt," he said.

Kompothecras thanked Beruff for negotiating a cheaper price for the airport.

"Buying land now when it's cheap is only going to benefit us in the long run," he said.

The land is located near a contaminated site owned by Lockheed Martin Co. Lockheed Martin was in a lengthy battle with the airport and area residents after groundwater was contaminated by cancer-causing chemicals from the American Beryllium plant that once sat at 1600 Tallevast Road.

An environmental test performed on the Boothe property shows that the land the airport is purchasing is not contaminated, but a contamination threat remains, according to airport authority documents.

Calls to authority members Beruff, Henry Rodriguez and Jack Rynerson were not returned. Authority member Leslie Wells is out of the country.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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