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The owner of Braden Airpark is considering developing 44 acres at the Forks Township facility to fund needed improvements there. The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority on Tuesday agreed to seek proposals from developers for 13 acres along...

See what development plans mean for Braden Airpark

The owner of Braden Airpark is considering developing 44 acres at the Forks Township facility to fund needed improvements there. The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority on Tuesday agreed to seek proposals from developers for 13 acres along...

See what development plans mean for Braden Airpark

The owner of Braden Airpark is considering developing 44 acres at the Forks Township facility to fund needed improvements there.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority on Tuesday agreed to seek proposals from developers for 13 acres along Sullivan Trail and 31 acres off Uhler Road on the Braden property.

Authority board members approved a non-binding resolution that outlines the development plan and affirms a commitment "to continue to maintain Braden Airpark as an airport" that the authority owns and operates. 

Requests for proposals from developers will go out in the next 45 days to lease the land for commercial, not residential, development, authority Executive Director Charles Everett said.

Though non-binding, the measure gives authority officials a "tangible project" to present to Northampton County Council as it looks for funding for nearly $2.7 million in needed improvements identified at Braden, said board member and county Councilman Glenn Geissinger.

Parcels at Braden Airpark in Forks Township that are eyed for lease to developers are shown in this layout from the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. (Courtesy image | For lehighvalleylive.com) 

The timeline for the work is dependent on cash flow from public sources and from the proposed leases, Everett said. 

Board member Dean Browning voted against the resolution, arguing against asking the county to include money in its 2017 budget for improvements that may not happen next year.

"My view is this is somewhat like putting the cart before the horse," Browning said. "I don't want us to be in a position where we are going to be perceived as promising something that we're not going to be able to fulfill for two or three years down the road."

Airport authority officials met at Braden earlier this month as they reviewed six alternatives for the land, one of which was to do nothing with regard to upgrading the facility.

The alternative selected aims to free up cash to replace Braden's general office building, which is too deteriorated to meet the township's building code; replace aircraft hangars; and demolish unused hangars, a barn and farmhouse on the property, Everett said.

"The concept is that we would ... consider leases for this land to be developed so that we would generate revenue for the improvements," Everett said.

LVIA to see $5M upgrade for ground transport

The improvements come as the authority is undertaking $5 million in rental car and bus service upgrades at its Lehigh Valley International Airport and also continuing to maintain its Queen City Airport in Allentown.

"We have three airports with a lot of competing needs," Everett said. "The concern is we don't generate enough revenue to do all these projects at the same time."

Fresh off the sale of $9.8 million of land for development of a FedEx Ground hub along Willow Brook Road in Allen Township, the airport authority this month boasts nearly $4.7 million in unrestricted cash, according to budget figures shared during Tuesday's meeting. That figure is projected to dwindle, however, to about $1.3 million next June.

The authority is coming off a strong September, officials said Tuesday. Passenger traffic at LVIA rose 10.2 percent last month compared to September 2015, with 58,906 travelers passing through the Hanover Township, Lehigh County, facility. 

For the year through September, air cargo is up 249 percent with 79.74 million pounds of cargo moving through LVIA compared to 22.85 during the same timeframe in 2015, officials announced.

Kurt Bresswein may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KurtBresswein. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

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