Embry-Riddle now able to better utilize its vacant land thanks to federal bill
Legislation included in Natural Resources Management Act
A bill awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature would remove a restriction that has kept Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) from developing 16.6 acres on the east side of Willow Creek Road across from the Prescott campus.
The Natural Resources Management Act has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The act consists of 125 bills, including the Embry-Riddle Tri-City Land Exchange Completion Act of 2019, one of five bills submitted by Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican who serves Arizona’s 4th Congressional District including the Prescott area.
The measure involves the parcel of land located at 3735 Willow Creek Road, east of Willow Creek Road and north of the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. It would remove the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) historic designation, which has served as a deed restriction that precluded developing the land, said Rodney Cruise, senior vice president for ERAU Administration and Planning.
“The removal of the historic BLM designation gives us the flexibility to work with state and local government towards the highest and best use of the property,” Cruise said. “ERAU will always maintain control of the parcel.”
A January news release from Gosar stated that the action has no negative financial impact. “Removing this unnecessary restriction will turn a vacant lot into an opportunity for economic development and growth,” Gosar stated.
ERAU would pay the difference in value of the land, with and without the historical BLM designation, to the Secretary of the Interior where the money will be deposited in the Federal Land Disposal Account and used in accordance with Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.
ERAU President P. Barry Butler said the university is grateful for the efforts of Gosar, Sen. Martha McSally and other members of the Florida and Arizona delegations. The bill allows ERAU “to strengthen the university, support local economic development and most importantly focus on our primary mission of providing much needed talent to the aviation aerospace industry,” Butler said.
As yet, the university has no plans on what kind of development might take place.
“We have a rigorous evaluation process for projects — and candidly, we are too early to speculate on use,” Cruise said.
The Senate approved the 698-page bill 92-6 in January, and the House passed it 363-62 on Feb. 26.
OTHER AZ BILLS
• The second of other bills affecting Arizona includes the Cottonwood Land Exchange Act of 2019, which exchanges an isolated 80-acre island parcel not contiguous or adjacent to any other National Forest or state land for 369 acres that the Coconino National Forest will receive from Yavapai County.
• The La Paz County Land Conveyance Act of 2019 provides for a 5,935-acre land transfer from Bureau of Land Management to the county, which would pay fair market value for the land and all costs related to the conveyance.
• The Black Mountain Range and Bullhead City Land Exchange Act of 2019 authorizes Bullhead City to donate a 1,100-acre city-owned property “in the middle of nowhere” to BLM in exchange for 345 acres of land in Bullhead City.
• The fifth bill is the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Transparency Act, which would consolidate multiple reports and requires BOR to conduct a thorough inventory of its assets and prioritize major repairs necessary at the agency’s facilities.
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