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Federal government denies SRQ airport land sale to New College

FAA nixes the $11.5 million deal for 31 acres that the college leases from the airport. Airport officials disagree with the decision and will "pursue further discussions on this matter."

New College, on 110 acres on Sarasota Bay, was founded in 1960.
New College, on 110 acres on Sarasota Bay, was founded in 1960.
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A yearslong effort to sell 31 acres of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport land to New College of Florida has been blocked by the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Friday, SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo told the Observer Media Group that he has been notified that the land — granted to the airport by the federal government in the 1940s —  cannot be conveyed to the college.

A 100-year lease between the airport and New College expires in 2056. 

After that, the fate of the college remains uncertain as, barring a reversal of its decision, the FAA will require a new lease at fair-market rate. That could run into the tens of millions of dollars per year, according to Piccolo. 

The current annual rent is $108,072, based on the rent of $1,300 per year established in a 1966 lease amendment compounded annually by the consumer price index.

Piccolo, who is traveling out of the country, says the official document is being sent to the airport via U.S Mail and should arrive sometime next week when he will return and have time to review the notification prior to responding to the FAA.

“The FAA has notified the airport that the FAA has declined to approve the request to release the land for sale to New College,” Piccolo told the Observer. "The airport does not agree with this initial determination and will pursue further discussions on this matter.”

The Observer has reached out to New College officials for comment.

On Feb. 22, the New College Board of Trustees approved a purchase agreement for the land. That agreement was then approved by the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority at its March 25 meeting.

The FAA has authority over the disposition of airport land because it is a portion of land granted to SMAA’s predecessor and is subject to property restrictions imposed by the federal government. The site was a World War II Army Air Corps base until it was transferred to civilian use in 1947, a result of the Surplus Property Act of 1944.

Known as the West Campus, the land is situated at the corner of University Parkway and U.S. 41 bordered to the north by by General Spaatz Boulevard and to the east by Airport Circle, the loop road around the long- and short-term parking lots.

This article originally appeared on sister site



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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