Airport authority may cash in on valuable assets

Published: Jan 31 2012 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 02 2012 06:06:22 AM EST
Airport authority looking to cash in on valuable assets
HANOVER TWP., Pa. -

The financially-troubled Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority is flying high following revelations it may have a cash cow under its wing.

Authority members have learned that parting ways with some property could bring in big bucks.

The figures come from presentations of several land developers that made their pitches to the board Tuesday.

To get out of debt, LVIA is looking to sell land, possibly the 200-plus acres at Queen City Airport.

"The numbers did make us feel good at the moment, but it's important to note those property value estimates are hypothetical and highly speculative," said Charles Everett, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

Several developers indicated the airport's 400 acres of unused farmland and fields and the 200 acres making up the Queen City Airport in Allentown could fetch $50 million in development; however, that comes with hurdles to jump.

"Have to build roads, multiple townships to get zoning through," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, D-Allentown, an airport authority board member.

The discussion comes as the board is looking to hire a firm that can give them a true value of the land, an asset that, if sold, could lead the airport out of massive debt. 

The debt mostly stems from a multimillion dollar lawsuit, ironically over land.  

Again, the Queen City Airport is in the crosshairs.

"I live in Kutztown. I remember when their's closed," said Art Tarola. "If this one [Queen City] closes, I don't know where I'd go."

Tarola's flight school and the rest of Queen City is sitting on $30 million to $40 million of potential development, said Pawlowski, who is pushing to sell the airport in an effort to keep the larger airport running.

"We are in an aggressive timetable, and we have to come up with plan in matter of years," said Pawlowski. "The airport is in real jeopardy of not being able to pay its bills."   

Fellow board member Dean Browning, however, said he wants to keep Queen City and sell what's currently farmland.

"We are within a day's drive of 60 percent of purchasing power in this country, which is why this is so desirable for manufacturing," Browing said.

A firm is expected to be selected next month.