HIGHFILL -- Northwest Arkansas National Airport officials are bringing in an expert to brief board members on market conditions and land values during an upcoming property tour.
The tour is part of ongoing efforts to buy land needed to protect the airport from encroaching development.
"There'll be a presentation by Stephen Cosby on land prices and lease rates and that'll be followed by a tour regarding land around the airport where we can kind of see what we're buying and what we're missing," said Kelly Johnson, chief operating officer.
It's important to understand real estate trends as well as current market prices for land purchases and ground leases as the airport looks to buy land, according to an issue paper on the subject given to the board.
Cosby is the appraiser airport officials have been using for recent land purchases, according to Aaron Burkes, airport CEO. He'll present his analysis to the board Wednesday.
Cosby has 35 years' experience as an appraiser and is the senior managing director for Newmark Valuation & Advisory services for the acquisition, disposition and financing of investment grade real estate in the central part of the U.S.
The airport hired him in 2019 as a contract appraiser to evaluate land for acquisition and to assist with determining the fair market value for leasing airport-owned land and facilities, such as the rental car wash or land for a potential hotel on airport property.
"I think it's something all the board members will find interesting, to hear his take on what's happening with land in Northwest Arkansas, around the airport and that sort of thing," Burkes said.
Board members also will hear a progress report on an update of the airport land use planning process being done by airport consultants Mead & Hunt.
Increased development and high land prices have become increasingly significant concerns for airport officials in recent years. They began a concerted effort last fall to discourage residential development next to the airport and under the approach and departure areas nearby.
The airport board has, historically, budgeted about $1 million per year for land acquisition, but bumped that up by $4 million this year, according to Tim O'Donnell, chief financial officer. Officials spent about $2 million buying land so far this year, most recently in April when the board voted in a special meeting to buy about 40 acres that will be needed if and when a second runway is built at the airport. They paid $864,900, or $22,500 per acre, for the property, which appraised for $865,000. It's at 11345 Brush Arbor Road on the airport's east side.
In February, the board recommended staff proceed with buying 83 acres on Pinalto Road, just southwest of the airport, for $1.4 million. That land adjoins airport property and was identified for acquisition in earlier plans. The land is zoned for residential use, but it's in a loud area near the south end of the runway, officials said.
They're also trying to buy just over 20 acres with a house at Brush Arbor and Arkansas 264.
The parcel had earlier been identified for acquisition on the Airport Layout Plan prepared by Mead & Hunt.
Airport officials have said they're concerned if they wait too long to buy property around the airport, the cost might become prohibitively expensive, especially if it's already been developed to any extent.
The airport owns about 2,400 acres. It started with 2,084 acres, according to Johnson.