Question: Optimum airpark lot/size

Editor’s note: For many years Dave Sclair, retired GANews publisher and founder of Living With Your Plane, has spoken at Oshkosh about residential airparks. Some of the questions that always come up during his session year after year probably are ones you’ve wondered about, too. Question – I’m trying to determine if I can successfully […]

Editor’s note: For many years Dave Sclair, retired GANews publisher and founder of Living With Your Plane, has spoken at Oshkosh about residential airparks. Some of the questions that always come up during his session year after year probably are ones you’ve wondered about, too.

Question – I’m trying to determine if I can successfully develop a residential airpark in my community. What do you think is the critical number of homesites needed for a fly-in community to work? Is there an optimum size of the lots and how many acres do I need for the runway and related taxiways, roads, etc? Answer – I’ve seen or heard of successful residential communities with as few as half a dozen homesites and there are some that failed to get off the ground with such a small number. On the other side of the equation, planned fly-in communities with a huge number of lots have been very successful, and, by the same token many haven’t gotten beyond the dreaming stage.

That’s a long way around in explaining that there isn’t any magic number of lots to make a project successful.

More critical to creating a successful project probably is taking a good look at how many airplanes there are within a 50-mile radius. What’s the condition of the airports where the panes are based? Are there lots of hangars available? In what sort of condition are the hangars? How much are hangar and tiedown fees in the area.

All these factors play a major part on whether or not there is adequate market for a fly-in community of half a dozen sites or a few hundred lots. The harder it is to find a decent hangar and the higher the rental rates for those that are available the better for someone planning a new airpark. If there aren’t hangars of decent quality available, it becomes much easier to sell the residential airpark. The same goes if the hangar or tiedown fees are high. When the rental fee for a hangar is equal to a good percentage of what a person would be paying for a lot and home, it becomes fairly easy to sell the property.

The amount of acreage needed for a fly-in community depends on a wide variety of conditions. Obviously, the length of the runway will be a primary factor. If the property is at sea level, a shorter runway can be utilized than if the property is located at 5,000 foot MSL. A market study should allow a developer to decide whether there will be buyers for lots that can support million dollar homes or small, relatively inexpensive places. That will determine whether the home lots will be small or large.

Probably a good way to determine some of these answers for any particular market is to drive around and see what type housing developments have gone up in the last couple years. Talk to the developers of those projects and find out how they sold. Get the names of the professionals who did the design and some of the contractors who built the infrastructure. You’ll get the answers to what can and can’t be accomplished – and a rough idea of the costs – pretty quick.

And let’s face it; the best project in the world won’t work if the pricing isn’t right for buyer and seller.

Have a question? Email Dave.

3 comments

  1. Jon Baker

    You should also mention the sewer and water situation and how well the land perks. Often you need at least an acre to get in even a small hangar and house when you need a large leech field.

    One very nice but rather remote airpark I know of in Texas was subdivided into 1/4 acre lots and then sat for years before any of the owners got around to thinking about retiring. Then they discovered that it was impossible to build unless they had four consecutive lots. It’s a beautiful airpark with amenities, lakes, and paved runway, but 20 years later it’s still almost empty because of the logistics of finding four contiguous owners willing to sell.

  2. Veterinarian and planes!

    That is a good point that Jon made about the sewer and water situation especially at some airparks out in AZ where water is at a premium. I would think at least 1/2 to one acre would be a good lot size.

  3. Margy Natalie

    I have property on an airpark community and most of the owners are not from the local area, but either moved to be at the airpark and/or retired to the airpark. Our airpark is also on a lake with about 30% of the lots being lake front and there are community docks for the rest of us. If your airpark is in “good retirement” area there may be a non-local source of buyers.

    Margy

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