Rialto Municipal Airport- Land Sale Taking Shape

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Rialto’s airport fate in limbo
By Nikki Cobb
The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin

RIALTO — The city is moving toward the sale of several hundred acres of land in and around the Rialto Municipal Airport. The council heard from the public Tuesday night on the proposed sale of 504 acres to developers Lewis-Hillwood LLC. The venture is made up of Upland-based Lewis Operating Corp. and Hillwood Investment Properties.

For Rialto officials, development is critical for the land situated along the future 210 Freeway.

Councilman Ed Scott said the sale would be the right thing at the right time for the right people.

“We need a good developer in there to develop along the 210 Freeway so we can make proper decisions and choices as to who’s in there, (and) get the best use of our property,” Scott said. “(Lewis-Hillwood) are both experts at doing that.”

City officials said there has been no final decision on the airport’s fate whether to keep it, scale it back or relocate operations to the San Bernardino International Airport at the former Norton Air Force Base. But for some, it’s a first step.

“I think the thing we’re doing is prepare, if possible, to close it,” Councilman Joe Sampson said.

One speaker at Tuesday’s meeting said he felt “the city has made up its mind” regarding the airport, but will be met with “extreme opposition” to the facility’s sale.

For the negotiations, the land was broken up into four parcels, each with different owners, status and potential for development.

  • Parcel A, 55 acres not necessary to the airport’s operations, is already owned by the city’s Redevelopment Agency. This land can be bought outright by Lewis-Hillwood and developed immediately according to its commercial and industrial zoning.
  • Parcel B, about 178 acres, is owned by the city. This land was bought in the early 1990s for airport expansion, but the expansion did not happen, and today the land is considered nonessential to airport operations.
  • Parcel C and most of parcel D, at 195 acres and 70 acres, are owned by the city. These plots include airport runways, taxiways and hangars.
  • Parcels C and most of D are bound by FAA covenants, as a result of federal government funding for past improvements of the airport. The FAA is entitled to 90 percent of proceeds from their sales, unless other arrangements are made, such as relocating rather than closing the airport.

    The next step will be the sale of the city-owned properties to the Redevelopment Agency, and from the RDA to Lewis-Hillman.

    The land would be freed up for development as Rialto relocates airport operations to San Bernardino.

    Mayor Grace Vargas said development of the property is critical for Rialto’s long-term growth.

    “We want to have the security of knowing that when the freeway is completed, we have a plan in hand,” Vargas said. “We need to start now so we’re ready for it.”