Airport-business tension: Tenants concerned about losing structures
Some general aviation tenants at Grand Junction Regional Airport are getting tense about their leaseholds at the airport.
Tenants at Grand Junction’s airport rent land for 30 years at rates that are below fair market value because they build their own hangars and other structures for their businesses. At the end of lease periods, lessees can remove their structures, or they can keep them on site, with ownership of the structures reverting to the airport. Leases also may be renewed.
But after an ongoing dust-up between general aviators and members of the Airport Authority board and airport Manager Rex Tippetts about a wildlife fence, a growing number of tenants is voicing concern about other aspects of their relationships with airport leaders, including their leases.
Some tenants don’t believe it’s fair that the airport can opt to take hangars that have been built with private funds, and they say not all lease agreements have been handled with parity. They feel that because they voiced displeasure over new gates that hinder access from the general public, lease renewals will be harder to come by.
Dana Brewer, owner of Monumental Aircraft Service, 2849 Aviators Way, repairs airplanes. He bought a lease from the previous owner, but he had to serve the existing lease’s terms, which had 12 more years, plus the option for a 10-year extension. Brewer said he almost wasn’t able to secure a loan for his business because the Colorado Housing Financing Authority wanted him to secure a 30-year lease. He said his mortgage company called him recently, concerned that his business and therefore his mortgage payments would be hampered because of the controversy about the new gated access.
“They’re worried about the viability of my business,” he said. “At the end of my lease it says I’ll have to give my hangar back to the airport. Rex (Tippetts) has said previously that he will own all the hangars. If I don’t get it renewed, I’ll take it all down. I’m not going to give it to him.”
Tippetts said tenants shouldn’t be concerned about the leases because they are legal, binding agreements and everyone knew the terms when they signed them. Leaseholds must have limits in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration in the event the agency would need to create other infrastructure at the airport.
Tippetts said the Airport Authority board cannot do anything about renegotiating leases because it’s against state law.
“You look at one of the leases,” he said. “It’s pretty clear about what happens. It goes back to the airport.”
Airport Authority Chairman Tom LaCroix said the lease agreements have time lines in an effort for owners to keep up appearances and maintenance at hangars and businesses.
“My theory is if we keep our property nice and maintain it well, the airport will probably renew our lease,” he said. “Some hangars are not well maintained. There’s a lot of crumbling asphalt.”
LaCroix, a pilot, pays about $420 per month for his hangar, which is included with a number of other hangars. About $85,000 has been pumped into creating and maintaining the hangars in his association.
Local officials say they have been listening to concerns of general aviators.
Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke said the organization hasn’t taken an official stance on the issue, but the chamber is concerned about the potential negative impacts the leasing arrangement may have on businesses at the airport.
Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon said Grand Junction City Council members will ask the Airport Authority board to try to settle the issue. The topic of leases at the airport also is slated for discussion during an upcoming public meeting.
“At the end of the lease, it’s still an asset. It should go back on the market,” Kenyon said. “I don’t like the part that at the end of the lease it becomes the property of the airport. They should care about general aviation as much as commercial (aviation).”