Commission agrees to sell land to Howie’s, get land for airport

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners unanimously approved a local firm’s bid to acquire three lots of land at the corner of 9th Street and Fair Lane at Tuesday’s meeting. They also approved the acquisition of land near the Manhattan Regional Airport via eminent domain following an executive session.

The agreement is between Howie’s Trash Service and the Community Gardens, which is sponsored by the UFM Community Learning Center. Howie’s will use the three lots, valued at $90,000, to expand its business. In return, Howie’s will swap a piece of land it currently owns at 512 S. 10th Street, valued at $127,000, with the city.

Howie’s has also been instrumental in assisting the Community Gardens move to its new location, a 10-acre plot on Collins Lane in the Hunter’s Island area. Greg Wilson, of Howie’s, noted his firm put about $21,000 into the relocation. Much of the $21,000 went into preparing the new Collins Lane location.

City officials and commissioners felt the agreement was a logical step for Howie’s and the Community Gardens. Ron Fehr, city manager, said the city favored the deal because it was an existing property adjacent to Howie’s and the city had a chance to swap the land for a lot valued higher than the Community Gardens. The deal will also put those three lots on the tax rolls.

“That brought value to the table in our eyes,” Fehr said.

Commissioners agreed.

“As far as the trade goes, this makes all kinds of sense,” Commissioner Wynn Butler said.

Commissioners also favored optional requests from UFM and the Community Gardens. The first was to designate another portion of the Community Gardens, south of Riley Lane, as permanent green space. Commissioners agreed that they were not able to tie future Commissions’ hands by declaring it permanent green space, but they unanimously passed a non-binding resolution stating the city’s wish and intent for the area to remain green space.

The second was a contribution of $5,000 from the city to replenish the Community Gardens’ reserve fund, which was spent preparing the Collins Lane property. Commissioners agreed to provide the support via in-kind services or funds, saying the city could likely provide equipment or help with site preparation work.

Linda Teener, director of UFM, said everyone involved with the Community Gardens appreciates Howie’s work in securing the new Collins Lane location and helping prepare that site.

“They were trying to be good citizens and good neighbors,” Teener said. “We could not have even begun to think of moving to another site without their help.”

Teener and Ron Downey, vice president of the board for Community Gardens, said moving to Collins Lane will provide the Community Gardens the opportunity for future expansion.

“I feel that Howie’s is a vital thing in the community,” Wilson said. “I think it makes sense.”

Commissioners also unanimously approved acquisition of land near the airport. In 2007, the City began the process, outlined by the federal government, to purchase a tract of land north of the Airport owned by Feather Field Farms, LLC.  The primary reasons for the acquisition are to complete a wildlife fence around the airport. It would also protect the area around the Federal Aviation Administration operated electronic equipment used by pilots for navigation.

The city has discussed the issue with the property owner several times in the last four years but has never been able to reach an agreement. That made it necessary to acquire the property though eminent domain.

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