Op­er­a­tor in talks to buy Md. Air­port

County, in­vestor have been dis­cussing pur­chase for months

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LAGASSE pla­gasse@somd­news.com

The Charles County Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment re­vealed on Wed­nes­day that it is in dis­cus­sions with an air­port op­er­a­tor who has ex­pressed in­ter­est in pur­chas­ing the Mary­land Air­port in In­dian Head. Dar­rell Brown, di­rec­tor of the Charles County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, an­nounced the dis­cus­sions at the depart­ment’s quar­terly busi­ness round­table at the Wal­dorf West Li­brary.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion from an au­di­ence mem­ber, Brown said, “We are cur­rently work­ing with an air­port op­er­a­tor that is very in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing the air­port. We have made it clear to this op­er­a­tor what the pol­icy

con­sid­er­a­tions, lim­i­ta­tions and con­straints are. Given the cur­rent con­di­tions, that op­er­a­tor is still very in­ter­ested.”

Brown added that Lu­cre­tia Free­man-Buster, the depart­ment’s new chief of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, has put to­gether a fi­nanc­ing pack­age for the po­ten­tial buyer. “The ques­tion is, when is [the

sale] go­ing to hap­pen?” Brown said. “That de­pends on the op­er­a­tor and the cur­rent owner.”

The role of the depart­ment, Brown ex­plained, is to try to move the process along as quickly as pos­si­ble for all par­ties. “We’re not the ones who are ac­tu­ally able to pull the trig­ger,” he said.

The air­port, which is cur­rently owned by Bauser­man Ser­vice Inc., has been for sale since May 1 of this year. The listed price is $4.84 mil­lion.

The list­ing agent for the sale is Hooper & As­so­ciates, which spe­cial­izes in real es­tate val­u­a­tions for mort­gage lenders. At­tor­ney Sue Greer, who rep­re­sents Bauser­man Ser­vice Inc., said in a writ­ten state­ment to the Mary­land In­de­pene­dent, “It is not sur­pris­ing that other en­ti­ties rec­og­nize what an im­por­tant eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as­set Mary­land Air­port can be for Charles County and its ci­ti­zens. Bauser­man Ser­vice Inc. and the Bauser­man

fam­ily are com­mit­ted to see­ing the Mary­land Air­port re­al­ize its full po­ten­tial. If the county has thoughts and ideas on how to achieve this, we are open to such con­ver­sa­tions and view mov­ing for­ward with a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach as a pos­i­tive step.”

Mary­land Air­port was founded in 1943 by the Bauser­man fam­ily. Gil Bauser­man, the most re­cent owner and op­er­a­tor,

died in April.

In an in­ter­view fol­low­ing the round­table, Brown said that the pur­pose of the dis­cus­sions with the po­ten­tial op­er­a­tor has been to find a vi­able op­er­a­tor to make the air­port func­tional and pro­duc­tive. He de­clined to iden­tify the po­ten­tial op­er­a­tor, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity due to the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Brown said that the pro­posed pur­chase of the air­port was un­re­lated to, and un­af­fected by, last week’s de­ci­sion by the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of plac­ing the 50-acre In­dian Head Tech­nol­ogy Park — lo­cated in prox­im­ity to the air­port — in an ease­ment with ei­ther the Con­ser­vancy for Charles County or the Mary­land En­vi­ron­men­tal Trust. “The two are not

de­pen­dent on one an­other,” Brown said. “I don’t see them as be­ing in­ter­re­lated. They are sep­a­rate ge­o­graph­i­cal spa­ces.”

Brown con­firmed that the op­er­a­tor has not been in touch with the depart­ment about last week’s vote by the com­mis­sion­ers.

At Wed­nes­day’s round­table, Mar­cia Keeth, deputy di­rec­tor of the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, noted that the ini­tial draft of the 2017 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan in­cluded a tax over­lay zone that would al­low com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial uses in the area sur­round­ing the air­port de­spite it be­ing in­cluded in the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict. The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted to re­move the over­lay zone from the fi­nal plan, though there is a mo­tion be­fore the com­mis­sion­ers to add it back in.

“We in­tend to work very closely with the Depart­ment of Plan­ning in help­ing to cre­ate that over­lay zone in or­der to sup­port the Mary­land Air­port and en­sure that it does re­main vi­able,” Keeth said.

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