Lantana airport fix difficult, PBC commissioner says

Slashing rents at the Lantana airport may not provide enough relief to overcoming the financial losses facing businesses there in the wake of President Donald Trump‘s frequent visits to the area,  Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner said this week.

Jonathan Miller (center), CEO of Stellar Aviation Group, speaks with Congresswoman Lois Frankel (left) and Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner (right) Monday, February 13, 2017 following a press briefing at Lantana Airport to discuss the impact on local aviation businesses during President Trump’s visits to Palm Beach County. Lantana Airport is listed the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Kerner, whose district includes the small general aviation airport, said that county-issued rent reductions for tenants at the airfield may not go far enough to keep those businesses afloat.

Flight restrictions have seriously impeded operations at the facility  on the four weekends President Trump has come to town since early February.

Business owners at the airport say they’re losing as much as a combined $15,000 a day every weekend when the president visits Mar-a-Lago.

On Monday, federal and county officials spent 1 1/2 hours meeting with U.S. Secret Service agents to discuss the financial toll the flight restrictions have had on businesses at the small airport off Lantana Road just west of Interstate 95.

“It was made very clear to us today that the Secret Service will not make any changes at this time to the flight restrictions,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said after Monday’s meeting. “So, unfortunately for Lantana, that means when the president is here, those aircraft will be grounded.”

To help offset the losses, Frankel said the county might have to consider rent reductions for businesses at the small general aviation airport.

The county then could try to seek reimbursement for those losses from the federal government, she said.

But Kerner said Tuesday that the rent reductions may not go far enough, adding that even with the discounts it would be difficult to keep airport tenants or attract new ones.

Kerner said it will be hard to convince businesses t0 make capital investments in their operations at the airport given the potential that flight restrictions could be imposed with very little notice.

“Who is going to want to rent there?” Kerner said.  “Who is going to be based there?…Businesses that are serious about business are going to look elsewhere. That is going to have a long-term effect on the airport for years to come.”