190 Acre Airport Land Purchase

There is a long-standing tension regarding the role of the McKinney airport between the people who tend to get elected to the city council and many residents. 

McKinney's taxpayers have helped pay for the airport's needs since the late 1970s. Historically, citizens have subsidized some part of the airport operations through infrastructure bonds and/or yearly general fund payments. The city committed more taxpayer money when it bought the FBO in 2013 for over $20M through city council action. Including the FBO purchase, the people of McKinney have put in about $90-100M just to get the airport in the self-sufficient (minus all infrastructure costs) condition it enjoys now.  

With a $200M airport expansion bond on the ballot this May, more people are paying attention than usual to what they want for the future of the airport and the city. This vote is about taking on a lot of debt and providing constant monetary support in the long term for a commercial airport.

Now might be a good time to review the history of the 190 acres of land the city bought in 2017 for the airport. It might explain why many are skeptical of what they are being told about what will happen moving forward, whether the ballot measure passes or fails.

In 2015, the city held a bond election for $50M to buy more land for the airport, supposedly to expand the number of hangars. The election was in November, and it failed. Voters said they didn't want to spend $50M on the airport, period. Read this review of the airport and the failed bond here from the DMN

Just a year after the bond failed, the city began the appraisal process for the land it wanted for the airport anyway. The city was not legally able at that time to spend any money on the airport because of the failed bond. Read about it here. The failed bond didn't stop the city from preparing to move forward. Read the date and note the 190 acres of land on this city memo. 

The 190 acres are in the red outline area below. It was owned by four entities who all bought the land somewhere around 2007:  VTCR, LP (Van Tuyl), Prairie Flight, LP (David Craig), MADMT, LP  (not sure), & Collin David, LP (David Craig).

Here is the 2016 appraisal from TXDoT. It valued the land at about $16.5M:

David Craig had a new appraisal done in 2017 that gave the 190 acres a much higher value, $26M.

The city went with a higher value as soon as it was able to spend money on the airport again. Read the city email below regarding negotiations between Mayor Fuller and Craig regarding the purchase. Fuller had been in office for about seven months of his first term at that point. The final purchase price was $22.3M for the 190 acres.

Below are the sale document and the signatures of the landowners.

Here are some text messages, possibly between someone on the city council (perhaps the one who was discussing the terms with Craig) and David Craig through the negotiation process. 

How did the city find the money to spend $22M on the land, and were there public hearings before the purchase to ensure the residents, city council, and the city were all on the same page (especially after the bond failure just two years earlier)? 

The city used fund balances to purchase the land. Many years of high taxes led to surpluses in these funds. Public hearings were not required to spend fund balances. 

The 190-acre land purchase could be a simple case of some people just making lucky investments and cashing in when the time was right. It could also be a simple case of the city of McKinney knowing better than taxpayers what course the city should follow by continuing with the land purchase plans.

It could also be that some people have plans for the airport, and the taxpayers are needed to fund it for them. Below are the members of a corporation that was formed to promote the bond. These people have been involved with the city in various ways for a very long time: former city council, former city board members, and recipients of economic incentives. Two of the former board members on the list were involved in the ill-fated Gateway project that was supposed to have a big economic impact on the city. It is still vacant land where the 121 and the 75 meet.

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