News Article | 4/4/2007

Rialto OKs payment to airport

RIALTO – The City Council on Tuesday night approved an agreement that will provide San Bernardino International Airport with $49.5 million.

The agreement is necessary to allow Rialto to close its airport and replace it with a massive mixed-use development along the Interstate 210 extension.

“It’ll be put to a much better use,” Robb Steel, the city’s economic-development director, said after the council had voted.

On Monday, Steel said that although the item would remain on the council’s agenda, City Administrator Henry Garcia wanted to delay the council vote because at least one council member asked for more information.

However, after meeting in closed session Tuesday afternoon, Steel said the council’s concerns were addressed.

Federal legislation allowing Rialto to close the airport required the city to pay 45 percent of the value of its airport to SBIA.

Rialto officials agreed after negotiations with SBIA officials that the airport was worth $120 million. To determine the $49.5 million payment, $10 million of the value was deducted to account for development costs.

The city initially thought the airport was worth $66 million. The difference between that and the value agreed upon means that Rialto will have to pay SBIA about twice as much as it originally intended. That difference will be split by Rialto and the developer of the project, Lewis-Hillwood Rialto LLC, Steel said. Lewis-Hillwood is a partnership between the Lewis Group of Companies and Texas-based developer Hillwood.

After Rialto closes its airport, many of the airport tenants will move to SBIA. The city is guaranteed to gain $26 million from the sale to the developer, even after paying SBIA and helping Lewis-Hillwood prepare the Rialto airport property for development.

Even though Rialto is guaranteed $26 million from Lewis-Hillwood, Steel stressed the developer could end up spending $120 million after helping to pay SBIA, preparing the Rialto property for development and after paying Rialto for the property itself.