County asks lawmaker for airport de-annexation

County asks lawmaker for airport de-annexation
May 10
09:44 2018

County commissioners asked State Rep. Debra Conrad for the Smith Reynolds Airport to be de-annexed from Winston-Salem.

The county made the request during a meeting it regularly holds with its legislative delegation before each session. All the state lawmakers that represent the county were invited to the May 3 meeting, but only Conrad came to the meeting, which was attended by all the commissioners except Everette Witherspoon.

Last year, Conrad successfully was able to get a law passed, suggested by Commissioner Ted Kaplan, to exempt airport runways and taxiways from stormwater fees. Stormwater fees had been a source of tension between Forsyth County and Winston-Salem, with the county considering de-annexing the airport, which it owns, to avoid city fees and taxes. A deal was struck to avoid that, with the city and county each giving the airport $150,000 a year for capital improvements.

However, after the law passed, the city reduced its contribution by $50,000, which is roughly how much the airport saved on stormwater fees from the new law.

The county and Airport Commission rejected this change, so the deal is now off and de-annexation, which requires action by the General Assembly, is back on the table. Conrad said she was disappointed in the city’s reaction and considered the law a way to enhance the deal the city and county had. Kaplan, who’s asked for de-annexation in the past, felt Conrad could get it passed despite the city’s opposition to it.

“We had the same problem with stormwater and you bravely took that one through,” said Kaplan.

“Yeah, but this is a bigger storm,” replied Conrad.

She said she didn’t think she could do de-annexation in the six-week short session, because any member of the local delegation could block the bill from being heard.
“I have to have everybody,” said Conrad.

However, this rule doesn’t apply in a long session and Conrad she would give de-annexation another try.

The airport would save money, and the city would lose money, if de-annexation happened. Even with the new stormwater exemptions, the airport pays $73,642.38 annually in stormwater fees, according to the city. The city estimates that the taxes on property leases and airplanes at Smith Reynolds equals $310,000 annually.

Kaplan also suggested a law that would take all county-owned airports out of cities, which Conrad felt was a reasonable idea that she’s been trying to get into legislation. She said other urban airports have similar complaints about city taxes and fees.

The county also asked for all government entities to be exempt from stormwater fees. The fees are charged on impervious surfaces like parking lots and roofs, which includes federal, state and county properties. The local school system pays about $250,000 annually in stormwater fees. Larger cities like Winston-Salem use the fees to fund federally mandated stormwater management programs, which prevents pollution from stormwater runoff.

Conrad also agreed with that idea, but said it would take a lot of stakeholder meetings and groundwork before legislation like that was unveiled.

Commissioner Don Martin said he knew there would be a big pushback from cities.

“The airport thing was small money, now we’re talking big money,” said Martin.

One county proposal that Conrad felt wouldn’t be controversial and could be passed in the short session is a local act to restructure the airport that dissolves the airport commission and makes the county the sole owner of all land there. The Forsyth County Airport Commission was established in 1949 when counties lacked the ability to form local authorities and joint commissions. The proposed act will let the county create a new airport authority that will be similar in function to the current commission and will most likely have the same members.
It also allows the airport to simplify land ownership putting it clearly under the county. Some property purchased for the airport is titled to the commission, while the rest is titled to the county. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants a single owner to apply for its grants.
Also during the meeting, the county asked for an act to allow pari mutuel betting in Forsyth County for proposed horse racing at Tanglewood Park.

About Author

Todd Luck

Todd Luck

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors