Alexander Valley Resort developer hasn’t paid deposit to aid Cloverdale Airport closure

The Alexander Valley Resort developers had 48 hours to pay a deposit, but the company balked, in part, they say, because they don’t have the support of the entire City Council.|
December 18, 2015

After convincing a majority of the Cloverdale City Council to move ahead with the possibility of closing the municipal airport, the developers of a proposed adjacent resort hotel failed to make an initial deposit to pay for city staff time to pursue the closure, raising doubts about their commitment.

The City Council on Dec. 8 gave Laulima Development LLC 48 hours to pay a deposit, but the developers balked, in part, they say, because they were unable to get the unanimous council vote they wanted to help convince the Federal Aviation Administration to close down the airport.

"We need to know we have the full support of the City Council to move forward. The 3-2 vote doesn’t demonstrate it to us," Laulima principal Jess Slavik said Thursday, referring to the split council vote to proceed with potential closing of the airport and transform it into a sports park.

Laulima "has every intention of moving forward with repurposing the airport," he insisted, adding that "we’ve asked for some more information before we financially commit to the city."

But Mayor Bob Cox, who cast one of the two dissenting votes, said he now doubts that the city will proceed in partnership with Laulima to pursue closing the airport. He questions their motives.

"From my standpoint the deal is off, whatever deal there was," he said. "We gave them a deadline. They offered nothing. Even their response was after the fact."

The attempt to try to close the general aviation airport to appease the developers has been cast as the most significant issue in Cloverdale since the decision was made more than two decades ago to reroute Highway 101 out of the downtown and create a freeway bypass.

The topic has split the community, with some saying the jobs and bed taxes the $200 million Alexander Valley Resort will generate far outweigh the value of the half-century-old Cloverdale Airport, with only 17 small planes based there and a couple of businesses, including a skydiving operation.

But pilots and other aviation enthusiasts say the facility serves as a base for medical evacuations, firefighting and business flights and is not susceptible to fog, unlike surrounding airports such as Santa Rosa’s.

"The community is deeply divided on the value of the airport," City Manager Paul Cayler said Thursday.

Laulima officials, who have an option to buy 254 acres adjoining the airport, are proposing an equestrian center, 150-room hotel, 40 resort residences and 80 luxury homes. They say the airport is not a good combination with horses and guests at the high-end destination.

It is ultimately up to the FAA whether to close the airport, which is a difficult process and could take years.

But the developers said they were willing to foot the bill to try to close it, including reimbursing the FAA up to $1.2 million in federal airport improvement grants Cloverdale has received, as well as advance some of the estimated $7 million in improvements to repurpose the airfield into a sports park.

The developers also stated in a letter to the city that they were willing to put up $500,000 to try to close the airport. Most of that sum - $380,000 - would be to pay for an aviation consultant, with $100,000 budgeted for a lobbyist.

Following a marathon meeting last week, a divided City Council agreed to begin negotiations for an agreement between the city and Laulima establishing the process and responsibilities between the two parties to petition the FAA to close the airport.

But the City Council required a deposit - $50,000 was mentioned as a likely amount - to pay for staff time, particularly for legal analysis on any memorandum of understanding, including shielding the city from liability in any lawsuits expected to challenge the airport closure.

Slavik, the resort developer, declined to specify what sticking points may have arisen to give Laulima pause to put down what the city described as a "standard developer’s deposit." But he said his intention is to resolve it fairly quickly.

Cayler, the city manager, said there was no request from Laulima to lower or change the deposit amount.

But after running it by council members, he took the unusual step of releasing a prepared statement saying the developers had missed the 48-hour deadline to submit a deposit.

"Given the community interest in this matter, the city is sensitive to the importance of providing residents with an update," he said in the statement.

Mayor Cox said, given the "rumors and innuendo," a press release was issued to "set the record straight."

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or [email protected] On Twitter @clarkmas.

Most Popular

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.

Our Network