Mary­land Air­port files for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion

Owner cites zon­ing ‘un­cer­tainty’ in de­ci­sion

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

Bauser­man Ser­vice Inc., the com­pany that owns and op­er­ates the Mary­land Air­port east of In­dian Head, an­nounced late last week that it was fil­ing for Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion due to con­cerns over the county’s plans for re­zon­ing land parcels ad­ja­cent to the air­port.

A press re­lease sent to the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent on Thurs­day an­nounced that the com­pany filed a vol­un­tary Chap­ter 11 restruc­tur­ing case in fed­eral bank­ruptcy court in or­der “to strengthen its cap­i­tal struc­ture and pro­tect the valu­able trans­porta­tion and eco­nomic as­set known

as the Mary­land Air­port.”

“A num­ber of en­ti­ties con­tinue to ex­press their will­ing­ness to in­vest in and/ or pur­chase the Mary­land Air­port,” the press re­lease stated. “Un­cer­tainty over the zon­ing and reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment has cre­ated dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances in which to se­cure new cap­i­tal or com­plete a sale.”

The press re­lease said that Bauser­man Ser­vice “con­tinue[s] to work with the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties to re­solve th­ese is­sues in a man­ner that best serves the [a]ir­port and Charles County.”

The press re­lease stressed that air­port op­er­a­tions will con­tinue un­in­ter­rupted.

“The on­go­ing sup­port from our com­mu­nity, our clients, and our neigh­bors, as well as our po­ten­tial in­vestors, will al­low the Mary­land Air­port to con­tinue busi­ness op­er­a­tions as nor­mal and con­tinue to pro­vide the ex­cel­lent ser­vice our cus­tomers and com­mu­nity ex­pect,” the press re­lease quoted Bauser­man Ser­vice pres­i­dent Tammy Pot­ter as say­ing. “Our pri­or­ity has been and con­tin­ues to be mak­ing sure the air­port will re­main the valu­able com­mu­nity as­set it is and that our cred­i­tors are paid.”

“Bauser­man Ser­vice and the Bauser­man fam­ily want to thank the Charles County cit­i­zens, our neigh­bors and cus­tomers for their en­dur­ing sup­port and com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing the Air­port and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it pro­vides to our chil­dren,” Pot­ter said.

Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments filed with the U.S. Bank­ruptcy Court for the Dis­trict of Mary­land, Bauser­man Ser­vice filed for Chap­ter 11 pro­tec­tion last Tues­day.

In its fil­ing, Bauser­man Ser­vice said it is seek­ing ap­proval to use rent pay­ments and other in­come that it would nor­mally pay to PSM Hold­ings LLC, which holds liens on the air­port’s ded­i­cated prop­er­ties, in or­der to pay for ex­penses through the end of Novem­ber.

Two weeks ago, PSM Hold­ings an­nounced that it had de­cided to fore­close on two of those prop­er­ties. A re­quest for com­ment from the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing PSM Hold­ings in the bank­ruptcy case was not re­turned by press time.

Re­zon­ing un­af­fected

The bank­ruptcy fil­ing is not ex­pected to af­fect the county’s ef­forts to re­zone land around the air­port for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment.

As part of the 2016 com­pre­hen­sive plan, the zon­ing of much of the land sur­round­ing the air­port was re­clas­si­fied to be part of the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict. Last year, the county amended the WCD to di­rect the plan­ning depart­ment to cre­ate what is called an “over­lay zone” on those ad­ja­cent parcels.

An over­lay zone is a spe­cial zon­ing dis­trict that would al­low de­vel­op­ment for lim­ited com­mer­cial uses while still ad­her­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal re­stric­tions.

The re­view process for the over­lay zone be­gan in July, in re­sponse to a re­quest from the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, and is ex­pected to be com­pleted next April.

The plan­ning depart­ment is also in the process of defin­ing an over­lay zone for a sep­a­rate 50-acre par­cel near the air­port that had been deeded to the county by the state in 2005 for use as the In­dian Head Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Park.

County re­de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Tay­lor Yewell said that the county’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment depart­ment be­lieves that it is in the best in­ter­est of the air­port, which has been for sale since last May, to pre­serve the sur­round­ing lands for fu­ture com­mer­cial re­de­vel­op­ment as a way to make it more de­sir­able for po­ten­tial buy­ers.

Yewell said that sev­eral prospec­tive buy­ers have ex­pressed in­ter­est in the air­port since it was put on the mar­ket last May.

“One of the re­cur­ring themes is that they are look­ing be­yond the gen­eral avi­a­tion op­er­a­tions,” Yewell ex­plained. “They’re very in­ter­ested in the sur­round­ing lands be­cause they feel like they can de­velop uses there which would en­hance air­port op­er­a­tions and cer­tainly be com­pat­i­ble with them.”

“They want as­sur­ances that when they buy the Bauser­man as­sets that they get the com­mer­cial zon­ing on the ad­ja­cent lands,” Yewell said.

The over­lay zone process has the sup­port of the cur­rent com­mis­sion­ers and the staffs of both the plan­ning and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment de­part­ments, Yewell said, and there is no rea­son to be­lieve that the process will be re­versed as a re­sult of next week’s elec­tions.

Both the Mary­land Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion are also in­ter­ested in the con­tin­ued eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the air­port be­cause it is a des­ig­nated “re­liever air­port” for the na­tional capi­tol re­gion, ac­cord­ing to Yewell.

“The depart­ment has made the air­port a pri­or­ity ever since I’ve been here,” said eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Dar­rell Brown. “It is one of the rec­om­men­da­tions of our strate­gic plan to sup­port the Mary­land Air­port.”

“Putting this process in place is an act of good faith on be­half of the county in want­ing to pro­vide those as­sur­ances to any prospec­tive buyer,” Brown said.

Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment by Bauser­man Ser­vice, the Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that it was “dis­ap­pointed and frus­trated that an­other lo­cal com­pany has been neg­a­tively im­pacted by poli­cies im­ple­mented by our lo­cal gov­ern­ment.”

“As demon­strated by so many other com­mu­ni­ties, re­gional air­ports such as our own Mary­land Air­port should be an as­set that pro­vides eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to our cit­i­zens and serve as an eco­nomic en­gine for our county,” said Brian Klaas, im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of the cham­ber’s Mil­i­tary Al­liance Coun­cil and past can­di­date for com­mis­sion­ers’ pres­i­dent. “It’s our hope that this bank­ruptcy fil­ing, with the lead­er­ship of a new in­com­ing Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers, will al­low for a restruc­tur­ing that ben­e­fits all par­ties and con­trib­utes to the re­build­ing of eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties in western Charles County.”

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