A long-discussed plan to add more land to facilitate future growth at the Manchester Municipal Airport was unanimously approved by the Manchester City Council and there is a possibility the entire purchase could be covered by a grant.

The council agreed to purchase approximately 15.5 acres of land from the M. Ruth Francois Revocable Trust for $270,000, but City Manager Tim Vick explained the city is eligible for a Federal Aviation Administration Grant that could cover the full cost of the acquisition.

Vick said as part of the agreement, the city isn’t required to put any money down and could obtain the land by Sept. 30.

The council learned it was also eligible for another airport-related grant, which will provide the city with $22,000 under the American Rescue Plan Act 2021.

That grant can be used to cover costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, combating the spread of pathogens at the airport and debt service payments.

City staff will also be contacting property owners on the block located between West Delaware Street and West Marion Street to the north and south and South 7th Street and South 8th Street to the east and west after it received a request from a homeowner about possibly vacating the alley.

The alley, which is unimproved, contains a city right-of-way but isn’t currently being utilized by the city.

Richard Zehr, who resides at 201 South 7th Street, wrote to the council that he has maintained the alley for the last 22 years and would like to purchase the portion connected to his property.

The council was receptive to the idea but noted vacating an alley is more complicated than it seems.

Vick explained that the city would need to offer all residents adjacent to the alley the opportunity to also purchase the portion of the alley touching their property before anything could be sold.

The main area of concern is on the western portion of the block, where a tri-plex uses the full width of the alley space as driveway access.

If the neighbors directly south want to purchase their half of the alley that the driveway rests on, it could cause some issues.

To make things less complicated, the council instructed city staff to send letters to all property owners to see what kind of interest exists before moving forward.