New lease may give city airport new life
After more than two and a half years of bureaucratic negotiations, the City of Port Aransas is getting very close to signing a new state lease that is expected to bring big improvements to Mustang Beach Airport.
The city leases 214 acres at the airport from the Texas General Land Office. City and GLO officials now are close to agreeing on a re-worded lease that will allow for more development and add 27 acres of land to the airport, according to City Manager Michael Kovacs.
Kovacs said he tentatively is scheduling the matter of the lease to be addressed in a meeting of the Airport Board at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 11, at council chambers in city hall. If the board approves a recommendation that the lease be signed, the recommendation could go to the Port Aransas City Council at its Sept. 17 meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at council chambers, Kovacs said.
If the new lease is signed, the most immediate result is expected to be construction of additional hangars.
Nine duplex-style hangars, each of which holds two planes, currently stand at the airport, said Pat Garrett, executive assistant to the city manager. All of the hangars tend to be filled, she said.
The hangars are privately owned, and the city needs the newly reworded lease to be signed before it can allow more hangars to be built, Kovacs said. Construction likely would be done through a public-private venture, he said.
Adding more hangars could help economic development in Port Aransas, Kovacs said. Hangar construction would make the town more attractive to people who own small planes and are shopping for vacation homes on the coast, Kovacs said. It’s common for city hall to receive two or three calls each week from people asking about hangar space at the airport, he said.
“Folks will call us and say, ‘I’m looking at buying a second home, and I’m thinking about Rockport or Port Aransas,’ Kovacs said. “They’ll say they really want to be in Port Aransas, but Rockport has such a good airport.”
Aircraft owners want hangars for their planes to protect them from salt air.
The city will use the new lease as a springboard for seeking more federal money for more capital improvements at the airport, Kovacs said. Such improvements could include additional taxiways and a runway extension to the east of the airport, he said.
Other future improvements, Kovacs said, could include replacement of runway and taxiway lighting and security enhancements, with fencing, additional lighting and security cameras.
The city also would like to renovate and possibly expand the airport’s headquarters building, Kovacs said.
The 27 acres to be added to the airport will stretch from the current airport property to the area of Sharkey’s Beach Club.
The proposed lease with the GLO would be a 45-year deal, with options available to the city to next sign two more 20-year leases.
While the lease currently is $200 per year, the new lease would have the city paying $5,000 annually because of the additional land and increased opportunities for commerce, Kovacs said.
The lease amount would go up to $25,000 per year if an agreement is signed between the city and a private partner to develop the airport, Kovacs said.
The city is in talks with Texas Aviation Partners, an Austin firm that wants to develop the airport, Kovacs said.
Texas Aviation Partners is proposing to implement airport improvements in phases, said Stephen Alexander, a partner in the firm.
Phase One would include paving a new “tie-down” area where about 15 planes can be parked, Alexander said. The “tie-down” term refers to the fact that planes are tied to the ground where they are parked to keep wind from moving them.
Phase One also would include about 30 new hangars, each of which could hold one plane, Alexander said.
“There is a tremendous, pent-up demand for those hangars,” he said.