What would it take to close the airport?

It’s impossible to know exactly. It will take negotiation with the FAA and possibly litigation. There may be some costs, but the land is worth more ($350 million) than reasonably foreseeable costs. Closure is doable and would not harm the city’s finances.  

The short answer is that nobody knows yet! Many communities across the United States have worked to close their local airports. Each airport’s situation is unique, so there is no easy precedent or pathway for Boulder to follow.

To close the airport, Boulder will have to end Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) control over our airport. This will require negotiation and possibly litigation. Boulder City Council has asked city staff to research and consult with expert legal counsel to better understand what it would take to close the airport.

Rumors have been floated that it will cost the city $100 million to close the airport. This rumor stems from the fact that the FAA helped the city to purchase 49 acres of land for the airport back in the 1950s and 1960s, and some have argued that the city would need to pay the FAA back for that land at market rates, which can be estimated at approximately $2 million per acre ($98 million for 49 acres).

IF we had to pay this money, it would be paid via selling 49 acres of the airport land.  Thus, the money would NOT come out of city coffers or the taxpayer pocket.

However, we don’t even know for sure that we would have to pay that amount. Some folks argue that the contracts under which that land was purchased are long expired with no expectation of any repayment, so we would owe the FAA $0 for that 49 acres. More legal research is needed to determine the truth.

However, even if the city did have to sell 49 acres of land at market rate and give the money to the FAA, the city can still zone that land for development of a neighborhood before it is sold.  And there would still be 130 acres of city owned land left that can be developed according to city priorities.