BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County Board of Supervisors is backing Winchester Regional Airport’s efforts to buy a vacant hangar on its property for plane storage.
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the supervisors adopted a resolution authorizing the airport authority to submit financing applications to the Virginia Resource Authority (VRA) and third-party lenders. The airport intends to buy the former ProJet Aviation hangar at 509 Airport Road from Wells Fargo Bank National Association for $1.25 million. However, the resolution enables the authority to issue bonds of up to $1.55 million for the purchase.
The VRA has a revolving fund that helps finance airport improvement projects.
Clarke County is a member jurisdiction of the airport along with Winchester and Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties. To take on any debt of more than $500,000, the authority must have the approval of all five members, said airport Director Nicholas Sabo.
The hangar, on land owned by the airport, comprises 27,000 square feet and has an additional 4,100 square feet of office space. ProJet, a private aviation company providing worldwide charter flights, built the hangar in 2008 to try and improve its business in the Winchester area but that proved hard following the recession. After moving to Leesburg in 2010, the firm subleased the hangar to various aviation businesses for a few years, according to a previous report in The Winchester Star.
Wells Fargo then bought the complex in December 2017. Sabo told the supervisors it has been empty for about 18 months.
With doors 28 feet high and 100 feet wide, the hangar is the only facility on the airport property capable of storing large, business-class planes, Sabo said. The airport has a waiting list of about 40 firms seeking permanent space to store planes, he said, and he knows of others that need temporary storage space.
Responding to a question from Berryville District Supervisor Mary Daniel, Sabo estimated it will cost the airport at least $100,000 annually to maintain the hangar. But he and other airport officials “believe we can achieve profitability within 18-24 months” through new business that they think the hangar will attract, including office leases, fuel sales and other support services, he said.
The hangar “will be a focal point” of a marketing plan to be developed for the airport, Sabo said.
“Airports want to be as self-sustaining as possible,” he said. “Anything that we think will generate revenue, we’ll pursue it.”
Supervisors Chairman David Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District, called the hangar purchase “a worthwhile project that makes sense.”
Clarke County will incur no debt as a result of the supervisors adopting the resolution, officials said.
In another matter, the supervisors adopted an ordinance endorsing a revised consortium agreement enabling Clarke County to continue participating in the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board (WDB).
A regional nonprofit organization based in Harrisonburg, the WDB works with local and state partners — such as community colleges — to provide services to workers and businesses in northwest Virginia, including job training programs, labor market information and job fairs. It also administers and oversees federal funding provided for those services, and it operates Virginia Career Works Centers in Winchester, Harrisonburg and Fishersville.
Clarke County is one of 16 localities participating in the WDB. Others include Augusta, Bath, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties and the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester. Altogether, Virginia has 16 regional workforce development boards serving every county and city in the state.
Region 4 localities, including Clarke County, entered into their previous consortium agreement in 2015. Since then, federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act auditors determined that the agreement had deficiencies, such as some required clauses being omitted. That prompted the WDB to revise the agreement, according to its attorney, Matthew W. Light of the Harrisonburg law firm of BotkinRose PLC.
Also, the supervisors:
• Appropriated $40,000 to purchase dwelling unit rights as part of a conservation easement for property owned by Sam and Elizabeth Conrad on Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340) near White Post Road. The county will pay half the money; the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services will pay the rest.
• Approved a $5,000 contribution to the Barns of Rose Hill’s endowment fund that will be matched by the Eugene B. Casey Foundation. The fund helps the organization have “a stable financial foundation” for providing visual, literary and performing arts programs, according to Finance and Development Director Sarah Ames.
• Appropriated a $3,348 grant from the Virginia Criminal Justice Foundation to help cover training costs for commonwealth’s attorney’s office employees.
Tuesday’s supervisors meeting included separate closed sessions to discuss personnel and real estate matters. No action was taken after either session.
All supervisors were in attendance accept for Barbara Byrd.