SCRAA to negotiate additional land purchases

PELLA — The South Central Regional Airport Agency has established fair market value to purchase more property for a regional airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave the SCRAA approval to proceed with negotiations to purchase land valued at $952,100 from Ronald and Linda Wichhart. The property is located along Highland Ave. and 210th St. in Mahaska County.

The FAA also approved negotiations for land valued at $145,700 from David and Beverly Prine. The property is located at 2265 Independence Ave. in Mahaska County.

Acreage was not provided in either resolution for the properties.

SCRAA board members John Bandstra and Scott Pinney voted down both resolutions to proceed with negotiations to purchase the properties.

Prior to entering closed session to discuss both resolutions, Bandstra expressed concerns shared by the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors about the way property deeds are being recorded and the use of language in those recordings.

Bandstra, who is the supervisor's representative on the SCRAA board, says they are concerned with language that eludes to the purchase being for the public “through an exercise of the power of eminent domain and declaration of value is not required.”

“First of all, we didn’t vote to use eminent domain,” says Bandstra. "We’re concerned about what this language implies to the public. Second, if there is eminent domain, like this language would imply, we need to go through public hearings.”

SCRAA attorney Amy Beattie explained this language was used because eminent domain could have been implemented to purchase the property. Beattie says she acts as the closing agent and SCRAA representative to prepare the closing documents for land purchases. She also records transaction documents.

“That’s all that it implies. It doesn’t imply that we’ve had to use eminent domain for this particular transaction, but it was one where that could have been used,” says Beattie.

Beattie went on to say the language is taken from Iowa Code Chapter 428A concerning transfer tax. It allows the agency to proceed without having to pay transfer tax on the purchase. If eminent domain were to be used, there is “a whole set of procedures” specifically used for a particular property, says Beattie.

“That is the language that we use so that the agency doesn’t have to pay transfer tax to the state of Iowa on an acquisition like this,” says Beattie. “This is just standard language when we’re doing an acquisition that had the potential to have gone to eminent domain in the event that we didn’t get it negotiated.”

During their latest meeting, Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk asked Bandstra if the SCRAA is using the start of eminent domain as they begin to negotiate prices for land purchases.

“I have been told by one land holder that that is a correct statement,” replied Bandstra, explaining he was not present during the negotiation conversation. “I can’t say it’s accurate, but the landowner did tell me that.”

According to Beattie, the agency has not had to use eminent domain for any land acquisition to date.

Emily Hawk can be reached at 641-672-2581 or by email at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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