Kenner officials say unused airport property is costing the city tax dollar; airport responds

Airport Land Back to Commerce

KENNER, LA (WVUE) - Some Kenner leaders want Louis Armstrong International Airport to sell vacant lots. They said there are hundreds of empty lots that are costing the city tax revenue.

In some areas of Kenner, you could say airplanes are residents' giant neighbors. They can be seen on the runway from neighborhood streets.

"This whole square had multiple houses and every one of these lots were residentially zoned, and it's still R1 zoned," said Kenner Councilman Mike Sigur as he stood on Colorado Street at 21 Street which is near the airport access road.

Sigur spoke of vacant lots the New Orleans Aviation Board auctioned off between Williams Boulevard and the road leading to the terminal. It is land that once had houses on it, but in the 1990s it was purchased by the airport as part of a program to reduce noise residents from jets.

"Once the airport bought it out, it stayed R-1, they've sold it at auction," Sigur said, as he stood next to an empty lot.

"Back on January 2016, the majority of the airport buyout property that was purchased came from this area here," said Kenner's Planning and Zoning Director as he pointed to a map of airport properties.

There are restrictions on what can be developed on the land the airport sells that was purchased during the buyout.

"It cannot be reused for residential purposes, these properties were purchased with FAA funds and one of the regulations is that the property cannot be used to once again build residential development in that area," said Hebert, whose department would play a big role in any zoning matters involving the properties.

He said the location of the lots would determine what would be allowed in the way of redevelopment.

"Warehouses, storage facilities, recreation uses, airport-service related businesses now with the new airport going up," said Hebert.

"Right around us they have been sold, so these folks do have to pay property tax," Sigur said about the vacant buyout property.

But on the opposite side of the airport access road and west of Loyola Drive, Councilman Sigur pointed out other vacant lots owned by the airport which he wants placed back into commerce because currently the city receives no tax dollars from it.

"But that is costing us money because just like this they pay no property taxes," Sigur stated.

It is land located in the Crestview Industrial Park area that the airport purchased and is separate from the lots that are part of the buyout program.

"That was just speculation on the Aviation Board in conjunction with the FAA to buy land because it was available for maybe some future use and probably in the decades ago when they did that they didn't know where that airport was going, but now they know and they know their footprint, so they need to get off of that property and put it back in commerce," said Councilman Sigur.

Sigur said because most of the property that the airport owns in the Crestview Industrial area is disjointed it would be hard for the Aviation Board to build anything substantial, so it makes sense to sell it.

"We have businesses that want to go back there but they won't sell so they don't have a means to open up their business and bring in additional revenue," said Sigur.

"As of right now being undeveloped the city is not receiving anything," said Hebert.

Sigur also wants the airport to try again to auction off "buy-out" properties that did not attract buyers the last time the auction was held.

Ultimately the Kenner City Council will approve redevelopment of lots the airport sells.

An airport spokeswoman issued a statement:

"The FAA  has restrictions for the disposal of airport property.  The Airport secured the necessary FAA approvals to dispose of approximately 221 properties and placed them for auction in bundles as requested by the City of Kenner.  To date,  47% of those identified properties were sold. 

"The airports use of land is regulated by the FAA.  Upon completion of the North Terminal Project, as part of its required FAA planning updates, the Airport will look at all of its properties and potential uses to identify the needs and complete the required FAA process of sale if warranted. We will continue to work with the City of Kenner to make sure that any properties that are not needed for the growth, expansion or operations of the Airport are placed back into commerce in accordance with federal guidelines."

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