Comment "Berz-Macomb Airport" on Berz-Macomb Airport, United States

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Berz-Macomb Airport

Berz Macomb Airport eventually succumbed to the pressures that have become increasingly common to privately-owned airports surrounded by increasingly dense suburban development. An article by Mary Owen in the 12/26/02 issue of the Detroit Free Press was entitled "Berz Macomb Airport hangs in there". "While developers, courts & planners settle the details of a proposed luxury subdivision on his land, Milton Berz Jr. is doing business as usual at the Berz Macomb Airport in Macomb Township. Business is slower now because some customers assume the airport is preparing to close. For the first time in years, there are empty hangars, and people have been flying elsewhere. But flying lessons & aircraft hangar space are still available, and the small office looking onto the runway is full of activity. Despite plans for 495 luxury homes on the airport's site, members of the Berz family contend that they're not closing their business any time soon." "Until the check is in our hands, we're going to be doing business as usual", said 3rd-generation pilot Jeff Berz.

The article continued, "For 4 years, Farmington Hills-based developer Grand Sakwa has had an option on the family's 330 acres, which are between 22 Mile & 23 Mile & Hayes & Romeo Plank. That means Grand Sakwa has the first option to buy the land. In exchange, Grand Sakwa pays a yearly fee & pays the airport's property taxes." The township assessed the land at about $9 million. The Berz family said Grand Sakwa offered more than that."

"It's one of those situations where property values have increased to the levels where it doesn't make any sense to run an airport," said Milton Berz Jr. "To see something you worked at for 30 years ultimately destroyed is not going to be easy."

The article continued, "A court battle between Macomb Township & Grand Sakwa began in 1999 after the township denied the developer's request to rezone the area from industrial to residential. The township contends that a residential development on the site of the airport goes against its 30-year-old master plan, even though there's a subdivision opposite the entrance to the airport. Two years ago, a judge ruled in favor of the developer's request for rezoning. However, the courts haven't determined whether Grand Sakwa is entitled to several million dollars in damages as a result of the delay in the project. Grand Sakwa plans a 190-acre development that would have about 2.6 lots per acre." "When - and if - the airport does close, it will leave only 2 Macomb County airports: Romeo State Airport & Macomb Airport in New Haven. Berz had about 68,200 take-offs & landings in 2001. Among Berz customers is the Warren Police Department, which stations 2 helicopters there. Company executives & celebrities such as Bill Cosby & Cindy Crawford have used the airport when flying into the Detroit area on private jets. Medical teams transporting organs from St. Joseph's Mercy of Macomb in Clinton Township also have taken advantage of the nearby facility." "I think the county is really going to miss this airport," said Jeff Berz. "They don't realize what they have here."

The article continued, "Jeff Berz, whose wife is working on her pilot's license, said that after the airport is sold, it will stay open for an additional 90 days to help customers find space elsewhere. He said people taking flying lessons can transfer their hours. With a hint of regret, Jeff Berz, who had planned to take over the family business, says he wishes that the family had developed the land around the airport with restaurants, homes or a golf course. He said the added revenue could have subsidized the airport." "I grew up out here," he said. "My father flew me out here when they were bulldozing for the runway."

In 2003, their last year, the Berz Macomb Airport web site described their operation as such: "Berz Flying Service operates as a full service FBO, offering flight training, storage, fuel sales, and the maintenance of Piper Airplanes. The flight department, operating Piper Cherokees, has a unique curriculum, offering one-to-one training for both ground & flight training." "Berz-Macomb Airport has a 4,200' paved & lighted runway. There are both VOR, NDB and GPS instrument approaches, the NDB utilizing a radio beacon on the airport. There are available most of the amenities to assist you when coming to the Macomb County area. These include transient hangars & tiedowns, heater service, rental cars, waiting rooms, nearby restaurants & motels, and both 100 octane & jet A fuel."

Fred Kaluza reported in 2003, "The Berz Macomb Airport was just sold for a reported $15 million because it lies smack in the middle of southeast Michigan's fastest sprawling area. The number one cash crop among area farmers is 'subdivisions'. It's getting to the point that flying over southeast Michigan is just as hazardous as if you were over the middle of the Pacific. There's nowhere left to land if you have trouble!" Russ Shreve recalled, "I took my private check ride with Milt Berz Jr, and I bought Milt Berz Sr's house when he retired to Florida. Their flight operation has now moved to Oakland Troy airport, which oddly enough, formerly was the original Berz Airport the family sold to Rockwell."

A 2005 aerial view showed that sadly, all signs of this well-built modern airport had been erased, replaced by streets for a new housing development.

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