The Port of Camas-Washougal is expanding its territory at Grove Field.
Port commissioners recently approved an agreement to purchase a 5-acre lot owned by pilot Kent Mehrer for $900,000. The property, at 26419 10th St., on the north end of the Camas-based airfield, includes a 1,900-square-foot house and two airplane hangars.
“One of our goals is to serve our long-term strategic investments,” Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp said during the meeting. “This (is a) strategic purchase for future development of the airport (and) allows the Port to hold over 11.5 acres of contiguous property (on the north end of Grove Field).”
The port executed a similar purchase agreement with Sally Luse for her 4-acre property on 267th Avenue near the airfield in 2019.
“Even though I’m still here, they know they can expand this way as needed,” said Mehrer, who has lived on the property since 2015. “The north side of my property is essentially not used. I have 5 acres here. That’s a big piece. The 2½ acres they have next to me, they could put a facility in there, or more hangars, that type of thing, knowing that they can expand at some point in the future (after) I pass away.”
The port gave Mehrer $20,000 at the conclusion of the sale and agreed to pay off the remaining mortgage balance on the property ($435,000). Mehrer will receive the remaining $445,000 in the form of monthly payments during the next 15 years.
“I’m on a fairly fixed income, (so) getting additional money, plus what I get from Social Security and Veterans Affairs disability, would give me a good living for anything that I want to do from now on,” said Mehrer, the president of the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association. “That was what kind of drove that whole discussion. I don’t have to worry about property tax anymore, and I don’t have that burden of a loan hanging over my head. Financially, it was a good move.”
The agreement contains a life estate clause that allows Mehrer to live on the property and use the hangars for the rest of his life.
“I can live here and control the hangars,” he said. “I keep up the expenses and that kind of stuff, but until I pass away, they’re mine to control.”
Port commissioners praised the agreement during the Dec. 6 meeting.
“The (Nakia Creek) fire was a great example of the importance of airports and what we’re doing for the community (at Grove Field),” Commissioner John Spencer said. “The purchase of Kent’s property and Sally’s property sends a very clear message to the community that we’re serious about the airport, that we will be developing it further, it’s there to stay and we value it. I’m on cloud nine about this.”
Commissioner Larry Keister said “the airport is critical” to east Clark County: “It’s definitely there to stay, and it will be developed in the future as the community needs.”
Port commissioners have talked extensively during the past few years about their desire to develop and expand the airport by adding a variety of amenities, including aviation-related businesses, office space, a mechanic’s shop and a fixed-based operations facility.
In 2018, the port contracted with Airport Business Solutions, a North Carolina-based aviation evaluation and consulting service, to provide a comprehensive business plan for Grove Field, which has 77 hangars and 14 tie-downs available to lease.
The 120-page report stated that the port should hire a full-time airport manager and invest in a “mini-terminal” to provide the manager with a base of operations.
“It is an airport with considerable potential, but one that may wither and die if improvements are not made immediately,” ABS consultants stated in their final report to the port.
However, the port is currently focusing on its Hyas Point waterfront development project, which will limit the agency’s spending capacity on other projects for the next few years.
“We do own land up there that we could develop,” Keister told the Post-Record in 2019. “But the problem is we’ve got land (on the waterfront) that needs to be developed and that will be a bigger return for investment to the community than the airport. But as soon as (Hyas Point) is up and running, we’ll move to the airport. It will get full attention.”