TIJUANA — Mayor Carlos Bustamante said Thursday that he won’t give the go-ahead for construction of a terminal linking Otay Mesa with Tijuana’s A.L. Rodriguez International Airport until the private consortium that operates the airport pays property taxes to the city.

“In itself, it’s a good project,” Bustamante said during a forum on binational issues organized by the Institute of the Americas at the Tijuana Cultural Center. “But we have maintained the position that they have not paid property taxes.”

The terminal’s status was one in a range of subjects affecting the cross-border region that arose during the discussion between Bustamante and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. Moderated by Charles Shapiro, the institute’s president, it followed a similar May event featuring the two mayors that was held at the institute’s offices on the University of California San Diego campus.

The terminal, proposed by a consortium of Mexican and U.S. investors, involves building a crossing to be used exclusively by ticketed airline passengers arriving at or departing from Tijuana’s airport. Plans call for a 45,000-square-foot terminal on the U.S. side linked by a 525-foot walkway to the Tijuana airport.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, right, makes a point during a bi-national forum in Tijuana on Sept. 13. At his side is Charles S. Shapiro, president of the Institute of the Americas, center, and Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante. Photo courtesy of the Tijuana mayor’s office.

A U.S. presidential permit was granted in 2010. In January, the proposal received local land-use entitlement approvals from the city of San Diego. The project is spearheaded by a for-profit venture headed by Otay-Tijuana Ventures LLC, whose investors include billionaire Sam Zell’s Equity Group Investments, as well a group of Mexican investors who operate the Tijuana airport, the Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico

At Thursday’s forum, Bustamante said Tijuana has been fighting in court for its right to collect property taxes from Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, which holds a 50-year concession from Mexico’s federal government to operate the Tijuana airport.

The consortium has maintained that it’s not subject to local property taxes because the airport is federal property. It has also argued that the licensing authority for construction permits involving the airport is Mexico’s federal communications and transportation secretariat.

This story appeared in the Sept. 14, 2012, edition of U-T San Diego and was reprinted with the permission of the newspaper.