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County: No Automatic Renewal of DRBA Airport Lease

County: No Automatic Renewal of DRBA Airport Lease

By Christopher South

The Delaware River and Bay Authority is the operator of the Cape May County Airport, but the county owns the land. The county has given the DRBA five year’s notice, as required by the lease, that it will not automatically renew for another 30 years.
Single Engine Plane Crashes at Cape May County Airport
Al Campbell / File Photo
The Delaware River and Bay Authority is the operator of the Cape May County Airport, but the county owns the land. The county has given the DRBA five year’s notice, as required by the lease, that it will not automatically renew for another 30 years.

CREST HAVEN – The Board of County Commissioners has passed a resolution to prevent the automatic renewal of a 30-year lease on the Cape May County Airport property held by the Delaware River and Bay Authority and return the approximately 1,000-acre site to county control.

The resolution, which passed 3-1 at an emergency commissioners meeting on June 6, serves as notice to the DRBA of nonrenewal of the lease, which otherwise would automatically be renewed when it expires in 2029.

The lease renewal, for two periods of 30 years each, would occur “unless not later than 60 months prior to the expiration of the initial term” either the county or the DRBA delivered notice of intention not to renew, the resolution reads.

The DRBA has not yet replied to a Herald request for comment.

The county included in its resolution a provision to extend the notice period on the lease for 60 days to renegotiate certain lease provisions. One of the provisions, said Commissioner Will Morey, concerned the county’s obligation to reimburse the DRBA for investments it has made to the airport complex.

Morey put the number for the reimbursement at about $32 million. Commissioner Director Leonard Desiderio said the numbers being talked about ranged from $24 million to $34 million and would have to be negotiated.

Morey voted against the resolution, saying it was important for the public to understand that the DRBA investments have brought value to the property.

Desiderio, when asked whether the new $7.4 million terminal under construction at the airport, paid for mostly by the DRBA, would be considered in the reimbursement amount, replied yes.

In remarks after the resolution was passed, Desiderio thanked the DRBA for 25 years of involvement at the airport. He said the county would remain willing to discuss a new lease with the agency, but for the time being it was in the best interest of the residents and visitors of Cape May for the county to control the property.

The airport, Desiderio said, is 100% county-owned, and putting its 1,000 acres under county control was a move a majority of the county commissioners wanted to make. Besides Morey’s “no” vote, Commissioner Andrew Bulakowski was absent from the meeting.

The county broke ground on the $6.5 million Tech Village Phase II on April 23 and would have room for more development and leasing opportunities with control of the property.

Projects at the airport require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, and required the DRBA to join the county in seeking approval. With the airport grounds under county control, the county would no longer have to partner with the DRBA when seeking approvals.

The county also would collect the revenue from leases with current and future vendors or tenants.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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