GUSTINE – The Airport Commission revisited a familiar topic at a special meeting last Wednesday, and came away with a recommendation that the city stick with lease terms requiring that hangar tenants keep their planes in flyable condition and that a rental surcharge be established for those who are not in compliance.
The commission had deadlocked on the contentious issue at a previous meeting.
Those favoring the policy say it will help prevent the airport hangars from being used for storage and help promote an active, viable airport. Opponents claim a surcharge would unfairly penalize aircraft owners who are working to repair or restore their planes and will ultimately chase pilots away – leaving the city with empty hangars generating no revenue whatsoever.
Only a small number of hangars are currently housing non-flyable aircraft and would be affected by the policy, according to city staff.
Ultimately, the City Council will decide whether to keep the lease requirement and if a fee will be established for non-compliance. City staff members said they will most likely suggest that the council adopt a $125 monthly fee on top of regular rental rates for hangars being used to house non-flyable planes. Commissioners did not address the amount of the surcharge in their deliberations.
One commissioner who had opposed the policy, Ron York, was unable to participate in the deliberations last week after the city attorney found that he had a conflict of interest as a hangar tenant. A second opponent, Steve Gulko, would also have been disqualified for the same reason but was unable to attend regardless.
Both later reiterated their opposition to the proposal in a meeting with Mattos Newspapers, and promised to address the City Council when it considers the recommendation.
“You’re already paying rent,’ York said. “We’re not getting off free. I just feel like we’re stretching this too far for 45 acres of salt grass.”
Two tenants have already left because of the policy, he contends.
York, who does have an aircraft under repair, said that he would have his attorney review the hangar lease in light of the recommendation.
Before leaving the meeting, he submitted a proposal calling for situations to be addressed on a case-to-case basis and requiring that each owner of an aircraft repairing, building or restoring a plane show adequate progress.
Those types of approaches have been discussed, city staff said, but one problem would be making determinations of adequate progress on any given aircraft.
“If we make it case by case, who decides what is ‘being worked on’?” asked commission member Eric Weidman.
“Where would you draw the line of what is adequate progress?” questioned commissioner Jeff Simione.
Weidman said the issue requires a clear-cut policy, rather than one open to interpretation.
York also called for the airworthiness certificate requirement to be removed from the lease altogether, and expressed his opposition to any extra fees being levied on hangar tenants.
The three commissioners who did participate in last week’s meeting were in agreement that the airworthiness requirement should stay in the lease agreements.
Commissioner Brian Frontella joined Simione and Weidman in approving the recommendation on a 3-0 vote.
“We don’t want to kick anyone out, just have everyone in compliance with the lease agreement,” Weidman stressed.
The airworthiness certificate is required as part of the annual lease renewal each July 1. An aircraft could be down for repair during the year without the surcharge being imposed if it was brought back to flyable condition by the renewal date.
Some past proposals would have given a six-month extension from July 1 for aircraft under repair, but the commission recommendation did not include a grace period.