Sunny Skies Colonia Residents to Meet with Airport Director

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BROWNSVILLE – A public notice is out for 66 property owners in the Sunny Skies Colonia who will be impacted by the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport’s expansion project.

Earlier this month, homeowners were shocked to see letters from an appraisal company asking to survey their homes to one day offer a price to sell it to the city of Brownsville. 

Bryant Walkers, director at the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, said the course of action is not eminent domain. He said they want to give property owners a chance to get appropriate compensation for their properties.

"We’re looking to reach an agreement with each homeowner so that they feel that their not being taken and they are getting a good deal, and it's worthwhile to relocate,” he said.

Juana Casanova has lived in the Sunny Skies colonia for 28 years. The grandmother of six said the community is very close.

"At first we didn't have water, or paved roads. So, now that they're doing this, we're thinking where we're going to go,” she told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Casanova said she knew the property was at risk to be sold to the airport when she first purchased the property. But the letters from an appraisal company and the newest subject of a neighborhood meeting about her property came as a shock.

"Well, it was a big surprise because we've been living here for many years and we didn't expect it. They're offering us an amount that we feel won't be enough to make it somewhere else,” said Casanova.

Walker said the appraised amount given on homeowners’ first letters is estimated amounts from Cameron County appraisal district records. He admits they should have started the transition a different way.

"The intent wasn't to have an appraiser go out and start his work right away. We actually intended to have this type of meeting prior to getting out there and doing appraisals. It just didn't happen like we had hoped. Unfortunately, we put the cart before the horse and here we are,” he said.  

Walker said the city of Brownsville purchased land around the Sunny Skies colonia in the 1970s. The land directly behind the colonia was purchased in 2004 as part of the first acquisition purchases for a safety zone for the current runway project expansion.

Now, neighborhoods and property owners are the last part of land purchases.

"How many properties are planning to purchase?” questioned KRGV’s Angelo Vargas.

“Sixty-six right now, and then we have an additional probably 40 or 50 where we need to do an avigation easement which is essentially purchasing the airspace above the property,” responded Walker.

Walker said property owners will eventually have to give up their land.

"It's really a federal safety project for the runway to be extended. We're looking at extending it 2,600 feet which gives aircraft a lot more stopping distance. This margin of safety is something the FAA would like to see us do and the airlines will frankly like to see us do,” he explained.  

Casanova said many questions remain.

"They told us the project could take between two and five years, but we don't know. I wish they moved us somewhere we could all be together, our family, just the way we're now,” she said.  

She hopes she and her neighbors will get answers at a neighborhood meeting with the airport director.


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