Previous coverage

Airport sale is in talks, but developer of adjacent land won't offer details (April 9, 2005)

Court sides with RM Airport in fight over trees that line the runway (February 28, 2005)

Cost of reopening RM Airport to night operations will top $200,000, county report says (October 8, 2003)

County, airport will split cost of initial study on cutting down trees (February 25, 2003)

County staff told to cut trees to help RM Airport regain night operations (February 5, 2003)

Don't cut down trees near RM Airport, county report recommends (January 23, 2003)

Airport cuts down 20 trees near runway and awaits county decision on 20 more (August 18, 2002)

County orders 10 trees removed at airport -- and saves daytime flight operations (May 1, 2002)

State says airport trees must be cut by May 31 or all flights will be halted (April 26, 2002)

Airport oaks face ax (April 11, 2002)


Group steps up as potential buyer of RM Airport

Published Tuesday, May 10, 2005

After months of rumors, a real estate developer has confirmed he is part of a group that has made an offer to buy Rancho Murieta Airport. Doug Wiele, president of Foothill Partners, said the airport would continue its operations if the group purchases it.

Foothill Partners is the lead developer of Murieta Gardens, a 52-acre project next to the airport that's planned for a shopping center and 200 homes.

"My interest in the airport is with a group of investors completely unrelated to the investor group that I represent with respect to Murieta Gardens," Wiele said.

Pilots and others in the community have expressed concern that the airport acreage would be developed as homes if a developer bought the property. One of the potential challenges the Murieta Gardens development faces is its proximity to the airport.

A month ago, Wiele spoke at a Kiwanis Club meeting and declined to offer any details about a possible airport sale, saying, "There are lots of rumors out there that my company or US Home is buying the airport. … I can tell you I have a pretty good idea what is going on. I understand there is a buyer at the table, and because I signed this confidentiality agreement I am not at liberty to tell you what I know. I know they have somebody."

He said he had brought in some pilots he knows from the Bay Area who are real estate investors to meet with the airport owners and look at the property earlier this year and, because of this, ended up signing a confidentiality agreement. He said the airport owners required a confidentiality agreement "between them and anybody that takes a look at their property to buy it."

In recent days, Wiele has begun to tell people about the offer for the airport, saying he is now able to speak more freely.

On Monday, he said, "We're in escrow, but it's not like buying a house. We're a long way from buying. If we like what we see, we'll conclude the sale. … I'm not the first person to have gotten this far and then changed my mind. … But we're serious. We'll see if we get there." He said it would be a month or more before a decision is reached about going through with the sale.

"The airport has not been a very profitable operation for the current owner," he said. "We think there are ways to make it operate at a profit."

One of the issues the investors are considering relates to night operations.

The airport's night operations permit was suspended in 2001 for safety reasons related to trees growing near the runway. The airport cut or trimmed the trees on its property, but the county has refused to cut down the ones on its property.

Last year, the airport took the matter to court and got a ruling in its favor. The county is appealing the court's decision, Wiele said.

A previous offer to purchase the airport fell through because it was contingent on having both day and night operations.

The airport, one of the first pieces of the Rancho Murieta development to be built, has operated for 30 years. It is owned by the estate of the late businessman Fred Anderson.

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