Maryland Airport files for bankruptcy protection
Owner cites zoning ‘uncertainty’ in decision
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.
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.”