On Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, the Gadsden Airport Authority voted to reject proposals from Pilgrim's Pride and the Etowah Community Group concerning industrial development at the Gadsden Airport.
The following statement was released by Jim Williams, attorney for the GAA:
"At its meeting [Friday, Dec. 17], the Gadsden Airport Authority (“GAA”) voted unanimously to reject the two proposals for industrial development at the Gadsden Airport. The proposals from Pilgrim’s Pride and the Etowah Community group were both rejected in a unanimous vote of the GAA. This vote rejected both the sale or lease of airport property to either entity.
“In light of this unanimous action by the Board of the GAA, the GAA calls on the plaintiffs, and the lawyers for the plaintiffs, to immediately dismiss all pending lawsuits that have been filed against the GAA.
“There are no remaining issues for the Courts to address and all issues regarding the proposed developments are now resolved. As a result, there is nothing left for the Courts to decide.
“The plaintiffs, and their lawyers, have called on the GAA to “reject the rendering” plant for the past year.
“Today, in unanimous action, the GAA did exactly that.
“The GAA strongly believes that it is time to end all legal actions. The GAA remains committed to its mission: To see that the Gadsden Airport remains a valuable asset for the City of Gadsden and neighboring communities.”
The following statement was made by Jonathan Welch, a board member of the GAA:
“In October 2020, at the same time as the general public, the GAA learned of a possible pet food ingredient processing facility being located on property owned by the GAA but unusable for aeronautical purposes.
“Prior to this, the GAA had been made aware that there was a potential industrial purchaser interested in property but no specifics were conveyed to the GAA.
“As with any proposed release of airport owned property, the GAA committed to following FAA rules and regulations throughout the process. The GAA has been, and will continue to be, committed to making decisions based upon the facts presented.
“In the year that followed this announcement, the GAA has attempted to gather facts and evaluate the proposal to determine if it would be an asset for the GAA.
“The GAA has done this in the face of baseless accusations of bribery, backroom deals and personal attacks. Let me say once again, these allegations are false and not one shred of proof of any such deal has been presented.
“This past summer, a group of citizens proposed to develop an adjoining parcel of GAA property for a light industrial park. The GAA held public meetings to hear both proposals as well as receive community input.
“The evaluation process was obviously extended because of the two competing proposals. “Unlike the PP proposal, the proposed land to be released for the Citizen’s Business Park is largely usable for aviation purposes. Our consultants at Neal Schaffer prepared a detailed analysis of both projects and that will be made available to the public.
“In reviewing these two projects, it became clear that the Citizens Business Park would violate multiple FAA regulations and was simply not doable.
“I am hopeful that these same citizens will seek to develop that project at a location not subject to FAA regulations. It is unfortunate that this issue has become so divisive.
“While I have no doubt that many people feel legitimate concern over the project, the issue has morphed from opposition to a proposed industrial project into a political campaign.
“This project has never been more than a proposal.
“This project has never received the ok from the GAA or any other entity, and the tactics employed to fight this project have simply delayed the ultimate resolution as the GAA has been forced to litigate issues that it does not believe are ripe and has been prevented from even voting on the project.
“With that said, I believe the GAA now has all of the necessary information to make a decision on both proposals. This vote will be based on the facts of the two proposals and the evaluation of each proposal on its merits.
“The ultimate outcome is not influenced by the pending lawsuits or accusations made against the GAA and its members.
“We are basing this decision on the proposals themselves and the existing FAA regulations. “Before voting, I want to make clear that the one positive to come from this is the interest generated in the airport. I have heard more about the incredible asset the airport is for our community than I have in the prior five years. This has come from not only individuals, but also the county and neighboring municipalities.
“My hope is that you don’t forget the airport after we vote. I agree that we have a great asset in the airport and I hope that the interest in the airport will translate to tangible support.”