GMA Field Search Information
Last updated 05/06/2015
Here you will find information from the Field Search Steering Committee’s efforts to find a new flying field. We are all in this together! The Steering Committee is made up of club members interested in furthering our club, hobby and community. All have full time jobs and family obligations, but together with your help, we will find a new location so that we ALL can continue to enjoy this wonderful hobby.
Georgia Model Aviators is seeking property for lease that can accommodate our club of 350+ members to:
Field Operations Layout:
Last updated 11/07/2016
11/07/2016 Field Search Update
The hunt for a new field continues! The search committee (Mike Dudley, David Hajj and Ron Gaynor) are working with our new realtor (and GMA Member) Jeff Dean. Jeff has been sending us 1-2 new listings each week for review. The search criteria includes the following:
Property listings meeting this criteria is then further scrutinized against the following:
There are more items to consider, but you get the idea. A lot of work must go into researching every listing BEFORE we get really granular with our realtor and the listing realtor.
There is one area of this search that we very much could use the resources of a club member and that is Topography/land grading. We don’t want to exclude a hilly property opportunity IF the cost to level it is within a reasonable budget. If there is a GMA member that has experience in this discipline and would be willing on occasion to provide pro-bono a very rough estimate on land grading, please contact Mike, David or Ron. This will help keep the cost down and allow us to consider all opportunities.
09/16/2016 Field Search Update
As you can imagine, finding a field that meets many of our requirements has been a tough battle. While the property referenced in previously met just about all of our needs, there was one that ultimately became the deal breaker….its location. It was located in Adairsville which we determined just would not meet the needs of most of our members. We have tweaked the field size requirements and will be working with another realtor in hopes of uncovering more locations for consideration.
08/12/2016 Field Search Update
Since the last update, the field search crew identified a privately owned property of 193 acres up in the Dawson county area. Countless hours were spent reviewing all the details, walking the property, completed layout drawings of the field, runway, clubhouse facilities etc. It all looked good to the investors until they ran into one snag. About 160 of the 193 acres of this property was designated as “preserved land”. Meaning you could not even cut down a tree without being in violation and subject to arrest. Their hope was to convert 60 additional acres out of the preserve designation- providing 93 total acres for flying. While this 93 acres met the needs of the club, the investors were concerned that the resale value of this property (way down the road should GMA ever vacate) would not be great. The investors decided to take a pass on this property for reasons that make good business sense. There is thought about re-approaching these owners on a lease agreement – more to follow in my next update.
In the meantime, our realtor took the field search folks up in a plane to view another property of 116 acres. I have been told that it is FLAT – OPEN – SMALL CREEK RUNNING THROUGH IT and GOOD ROAD ACCESS. It is large enough to accommodate three separate flying fields (fix wing, drones and helicopters) so that multiple disciplines can fly at the same time. Couple this to the vision the investor have about making this the finest RC flying field in the US (Clubhouse with kitchen and bathrooms, drinkable running water, storage, golf course style grass etc.) and I think we have finally found paradise. While the investors will be the party that will purchase this land and lease back to GMA, any improvements (runway, clubhouse, entrance roads electrical etc.) will be funded by the GMA budget reserves. We have enough now to just about replicate what we have at our current field and maybe more given how much of the cost can be offset by GMA members willing to volunteer to do some of the work.
I can’t tell you more about this property yet due to a buyer/seller NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) that is in place... BUT, should be able to send out an update within the next two weeks. STAY TUNED!
06/10/2016 Field Search Update
We have looked at two properties since the last update, both of which were a 9 out 10 as far as our list of requirements we are working with. The one issue we are dealing with on most properties is “sloping” terrain once you get past the runways. We did spend two full days on an 81 acre tract, walking it...even “droning it”. It was beautiful and within our price range...but there was a 10ft drop for every 100ft of terrain past the runway locations. The goal and desire of our investors is to find property that is flat all the way out from the runway. To that end, they are rethinking the viability to increase the cost per acre amount in order to meet this objective.
We are now seeking to meet a family that owns 500 acres of flat pasture land near Dawsonville, off Hwy 9. We will be asking if they would sell or lease 200 acres and give airspace easement to us for the full 500 acres. Will pursue this over the next few weeks.
04/29/2016 Field Search Update
The search for a new field has picked up speed over the past 45 days. Working with 2 realtors, we have inspected over 17 properties within a 12 mile radius of our current GMA field location. Of these 17 properties, one in particular continues to surface as a viable opportunity. While the purchase cost of this property may be our biggest deterrent, we have since stumbled across 2 more properties in the meantime. One of them appears to be a non-working 200+ acre farm that the owner might be willing to lease or sell a portion of the land. The bottom line is that opportunities are becoming more readily available and we continue to challenge our agents to find land that we can go to contract by August.
11/8/15 Field Search Update
We have a few updates to report since our last report a month ago:
10/7/15 Field Search Update
Given the healthier economy, land sales for housing development have been on the rise. This has presented changes to the FSC on two fronts; 1). Large tracks of property within a viable radius of our current field location are being gobbled up and 2). Increase housing being developed that surround potential sites now negate those sites as options. We don’t want to repeat the “noise” complaint situation that plagues our current location.
Referenced below is an update provided by FSC Mike Dudley indicating the outcomes of our current searches and discussions. Unfortunately, nothing promising has yet to surface from these efforts.
There are several new directions we plan to pursue:
1. Purchase a mailing list – Our current field location was found years ago by sending out letters to hundreds of landowners that own a minimum of 32+ acres asking if they would be interested in leasing their property. It worked for us then and worth pursing again. The FSC has approached the same research company and requested a list with the criteria of: Farm or agriculture landowners of more than 50+ acres within 25 mile radius of our current field location. Over 1700 leads have been identified based on this criteria.
2. Investors – The GMARC Board and FSC will be reaching out to potential investors interested in purchasing land for our club and then leasing it back to the club.
3. FSC will continue to work with our realtor seeking out viable property for lease and/or purchase
CURRENT FIELD STATUS
There have been several members who still believe there is an opportunity to retain our current field. To that end the field search committee is pursuing all avenues to investigate this as one of our opportunities. The FSC kindly ask our members not take this initiative on your own as it sends mix signals in the marketplace when we are trying to have or are having the same conversations.
Pursing this option does not come without challenges. As referenced in an earlier status report, GMARC had to sign a contract agreement in 2014 with the Garmon Family in order for them to retract their law suit against the county, thereby allowing GMA to stay in our current location through the end of our lease (December 2017). One of the stipulations we had to agree to was a “Good Faith” clauses which states: GMA, on behalf of its officers and members, agrees that is would not be in good faith for GMA, or a substantial number of its officers or members, to dissolve or reform GMA as a different entity (including without limitation a corporation or limited liability company of a different name) for the purpose of circumventing the terms of this Agreement (e.g. to use property located within Ten Thousand (10,000) feet of any boundary line of the Garmon Property for the purpose of piloting Model Aircraft), and GMA, on behalf of its officers and members, agrees not to dissolve or reform GMA as a different entity for that purpose.
GMA New Field Search Notes – January 2015 to Present
September 25, 2015
Note: Data comprises work completed and documented by Mike Dudley.
Our early search activity was based primarily on member suggestions. This led us to examine sites in Forsyth, Cherokee and Dawson counties.
The examination of Forsyth sites led to two outcomes. First, Forsyth is rapidly experiencing heavy residential in-fill. This means that almost all sites that are large enough are also adjacent to a housing subdivision. We decided early on that such a location was not acceptable. The second outcome was learning that the only permit Forsyth could offer us was on land that was zoned commercial. This would greatly increase our cost whether we leased or purchased a site in Forsyth.
While all other sites suggested by members might have been large enough, the cost to acquire the land and to prepare it for our use would have been high. That doesn’t mean this was wasted effort.
While contacting a realtor who had a listing on Reavis Mountain Rd (north of Ball Ground) we learned of a person who “had land” on a flood plain on the Etowah in Canton. This led to Larry Lusk.
Larry Lusk was in the process of “reacquiring” a bank-owned 93 acre parcel on the Etowah in Canton. He was very willing to discuss terms with us once he took title to the land. This was expected to occur in May. This would be followed by a 90 day period where Larry would seek to have the land rezoned agricultural. At the time, we were concerned about the distance from our current location. So we decided to continue our search even as Larry Lusk continued his efforts. More about this site later.
One site suggested by a member was low land on the north side of McGinnis Ferry Road at the Chattahoochee River in south Forsyth. It was thought that this land was available to the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department. We attempted to contact the Parks and Recreation Board. This was not successful. Also, some members objected to this site. More about this site later.
We then decided to focus our efforts on flood plains along the Etowah. The most opportune areas were found in Dawson County. Our first contact with the Dawson Planning and Development Department was favorable and we were referred to the Dawson Development Authority. This in turn led to contacts with a private land owner and also the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.
A large area on the north side of the Etowah and to the east of Rt 9 is under cultivation. We were encouraged by the DDA to contact the owner and present our case. While the contact was cordial, the owner is intent on continuing farming of this area indefinitely and isn’t interested in accommodating us in any fashion.
We then turned our attention to two flood plains in a large parcel owned by the EW&SA. These two areas are on opposite sides of the Etowah, on the west side of RT 9 in south Dawson. We met with the Director of the EW&SA on-site. As it turns out, both areas are “wetland mitigation banks”. No development, even as limited as what we would require, can be done in these areas. These outcomes were a major set-back to our efforts.
Ron’s Gaynor’s Realtor – Ed Arnhold
Ron Gaynor then enlisted realtor who had earlier contacted him. Ron asked Ed Arnhold to run some searches with varying criteria for listings within our area. We then sorted these listings to identity those which were the largest. No property was over 37 acres. This meant that we’d have to find a site where we could secure “overfly rights” for adjacent parcels. An inspection of two 19AC+ parcels, one west Dawsonville the other near Jasper, showed that the land, while pretty, is very rugged. This would raise the cost of preparing a site even if we could secure overfly rights. This wasn’t all wasted effort.
Some of the listings cited “land bank” financing as an option. This is a slightly misleading term. The practical outcome of this is option is that financing can be obtained through AgGeorgia Farm Credit. This is a credit cooperative which finances the purchase of land which is either zoned agricultural or has the potential to become zoned agricultural. Our contact with this organization demonstrated that they would be willing to finance our purchase of such land even though we would not be farming a new site.
By this time we realized that leasing a site such as Eagle’s Beak might not be an option, and we might well have to consider purchasing a new site. So this matter was referred to the new site search team’s “Finance desk”.
Re-contact Larry Lusk
We then decided to contact Larry Lusk (93 acres in Canton) as we hadn’t heard from him. Also by this time we thought that the Canton site might be our best option after all.
It turns out that just before he was about to close the purchase with the bank, another developer, an LLP, offered $200K more that Larry was willing pay. So he lost the deal. We asked Larry to contact the LLP and determine if they would be willing to extend to us the same offer that he had made. The response was very negative.
Examination of Forsyth County Parks
A member suggested that we examine a couple of Forsyth County parks to see if we could use these areas for our operations. One in Windward, east of Cumming, was too hilly. We visited Fowler Park, south of Cumming, and were advised that flying RC aircraft was permitted on a limited basis.
We contacted the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department to determine under what conditions we might be able to use a county park for flying operations. The answer was that we could not use a county park for organized flying under any conditions. However, read on.
Re-contact on McGinnis Ferry Road Site
Another member suggested that we take another look at the McGinnis Ferry Road site mentioned above. While this site appears to offer a flight path approaching 2,000’, it probably would not support the larger aircraft we fly at Eagle’s Beak. This is what we have learned in our contacts with the Forsyth County Water and Sewer Authority (FW&SA) and the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department (FP&R).
We contacted the Director of the FW&SA and learned the following. First, the area we’re considering is tied up due to construction of a new water treatment plant near McGinnis Ferry and Kemp Roads. Construction of this plant is scheduled to end by early next year. Second, once this is done the FW&SA expects the FP&R to consider acquiring the area no longer required by the water treatment plant for future use for park activities. It was suggested that we contact the FP&R.
Our contact with the FP&R Assistant Director disclosed the following. First, the FP&R will issue a “design and study” contract by the end of this year. Public meetings will be held and we are invited to make a proposal for the use this area to host our operations. Second, it is expected that “greenspace” money will not be used to purchase the land from the FW&SA. Thus, we would not encounter the same “passive use” issue we encountered at Eagle’s Beak. Third, the FP&R expects that it will take perhaps until the end of this decade to acquire the funds necessary for land acquisition and park facilities development. Fourth, while no guarantees were offered, the impression we have is that our proposal to use this area would be favorably received.
Since we can’t wait until the end of the decade for FP&R to acquire necessary funds, we re-contacted the FW&SA. We asked if the FW&SA could find some administrative process which would allow us to sue this are under FW&SA auspices until the FP&R could acquire the land. The response from the Director was: “I will discuss this request with the Water and Sewer committee when we meet again in a couple of months”.
I need to add another comment regarding our contact with the FW&SA Director. He agreed to receive an email with a link to our website and with the ”deck” file attached. His response was: “I will discuss this with County leaders”.
8/11/15 Field Search update
The Field Search Committee is still hard at work searching for field locations that can accommodate all our RC flying needs. Needless to say, it has been a challenge trying to find a minimum of 10 buildable acres with another 50+ of fly-over airspace, that is not directly next to housing, airport, major highway AND within close proximity to where the majority of our member live!
Several potential opportunities have hit a brick wall for reasons that range from; our company uses this property for our private helicopter and does want to be bothered sharing it with other air traffic to this property has been in our family for years and we have no interest in leasing part of it out. We have also searched several flood plains in Dawson and Cherokee counties, but to no avail.
On a more positive front, we have recently secured the services of Ed Arnold – a realtor with Robbins Realty. Ed has set up a search engine that pulls weekly property listings that meet our discussed requirements. While most of these listing are categorized as “For Sale”, our first priority is to approach the sellers on a “Lease” or “Lease to Purchase” opportunity. With land values starting to pick up, we will be challenged finding a “lease only” piece of property.
05/07/2015 - Welcome to the new GMA Website and location for all Field Search updates.
Below are the initial items our group has been tasked to complete:
In addition to the above items, the New Site Search team has been actively researching where what counties can best accommodate our needs. Regulations and permit requirements appear to be vastly different from one county to the next. The objective of this search is to locate a new site within reasonable proximity to the major portion of our current membership and which supports all current flight activities and special events. The initial search will be for a site situated as is our current site within a flood plain. The advantage of such a site is that the cost, whether we lease or purchase, should be less than a site which could be the object of future development. We will seek terms which reduce or eliminate the prospect that we might be evicted from a site without recourse. As a general rule, we will not seek a new site which is immediately adjacent to a housing subdivision. Below is a brief recap of our initial findings:
The Cherokee County Planning & Land Use Department was receptive to our inquiry. They described an “amusements and outdoor recreational facilities” permit that we could secure. We were encouraged to find land zoned for agricultural use. The permit described can be issued for a site in a flood plain. However, in no case can we use portable toilets. Rest rooms must be above a flood plain and must be ADA compliant. They can use a septic field. A local land owner, who has a site we might consider, disputes the notion that we can’t use portable toilets in a flood plain
Nowhere has our inquiry on relocating to a county been better received than in Dawson County. The Director of the Dawson County Planning and Development Department forwarded our inquiry to the Development Authority of Dawson County. The Executive Director of the Authority has effectively become our agent in searching for a site in Dawson County. The initial search will be along the Etowah River south of Dawsonville. At the moment, this may present our best opportunities for the following reasons. You will see elsewhere on the GMA website a “pin map” showing the distribution of GMA’s membership. The greatest number of GMA’s members live along the GA 400 corridor north of Atlanta. Elsewhere in this summary, you will see the obstacles we have encountered in Forsyth County. The outcome is that the least disruptive move for the greatest number of our members might be to south Dawson County. This will be the area where we focus our search in the near term.
Forsyth County is willing to issue a use permit to us. However; this permit can only be issued for land which is zoned commercial. This will raise the cost of a new site whether we lease or purchase. A visual survey of land lots in Forsyth County south of RT 369 shows that very few, if any, undeveloped parcels of sufficient size to meet our requirements are not adjacent to a housing subdivision. This, along with the increased cost imposed by commercial zoning, suggest that our outlook in Forsyth County is very poor.
We have received a suggestion from a member who recommended that we investigate several sites in Lumpkin County. The cost per acre of theses sites is notably higher than to cost per acre in other counties south of Lumpkin County. Given that Lumpkin County is the northernmost county of those where we are searching and the apparent opportunities closer to the center of our member population; we will continue to assess these opportunities first. See the discussion of Dawson County.
The Pickens County Director of Planning and Development Department indicated that it would be easy for us to secure a permit on land zoned Agricultural or Rural-Residential. Interestingly, this would be under to general classification of a “country club”. No rivers run through Pickens County. So no flood plains are available. It was suggested to us that some “bottom land” along streams might be available. The land in Pickens County is generally rugged which will increase the cost of preparing a site in this county.
Last updated 05/06/2015
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