Thursday, June 06, 2013

Sheboygan County Memorial Airport (KSBM) restaurant may be grounded: Special events violate lease, state law, officials say -Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Jun. 5, 2013 

Written by Michael LoCicero

Final Approach restaurant at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport may be taken over by Sheboygan County if the owner doesn’t comply with federal, state and county requests to reduce the number of “non-aeronautic” events at its hangar-turned-banquet hall.

Ron Burrows, who owns the restaurant and the 10,000-square-foot hangar/banquet facility, among other buildings at the airport, agreed to a lease with the county in March 2011 that the banquet area was meant for “occasional” non-aeronautic activities.

Burrows pays the county $17,069 per year in rent as part of the terms of the lease that currently goes through 2031.

In two separate meetings this past February, representatives from the state Bureau of Aeronautics, which oversees the airport along with the Federal Aviation Administration, expressed concern that the hangar was too frequently being used for non-aeronautic activities — such as wedding receptions and gun shows — and that Burrows hadn’t sought approval from the county prior to some of them.

After holding events “inappropriate for airports,” Burrows was told by the county’s Transportation Committee this past March that as of April 1, only one non-aeronautical event per month would be allowed in the hangar, which is adjacent to the restaurant. He is also required to have events approved 30 days in advance by airport Superintendent Tom Boyer.

“For two-and-a-half years, we’ve been holding events and banquets and now they’re saying now you can’t,” Burrows Aviation General Manager Mindy Smith said. “They’re (Sheboygan County) saying if you have any more events, you’re not in compliance with your lease and we’re going to take back the premises.”

Burrows has been using the hangar for wedding receptions, martial arts events and held a gun show last weekend, he said. If he doesn’t comply with the committee’s request, the county may rescind his lease.

A letter obtained by the Sheboygan Press from Sheboygan County Corporation Counsel Carl Buesing to Burrows dated May 30 states: “If you continue to violate the terms of the agreement, Sheboygan County may choose to exercise its right to early termination and I will commence an action to recover the premises for Sheboygan County.”

Buesing’s letter also states that Burrows held an unapproved fundraiser event in April and a retirement event.

If the county doesn’t act to bring Burrows in compliance with the lease, it stands the chance of losing federal and state funding, Boyer said.

“The activities he continues to conduct has caused the airport to be in violation of federal grant assurances,” Boyer said. “This can have a huge negative financial impact to the citizens of Sheboygan County.”

Boyer said the FAA and WBOA have the ability to deny future funding, including a funding for a $2 million project set for this summer to convert some ramps from asphalt to concrete to accommodate larger aircraft. He said the airport has received $25 million in funding since it opened in 1962.

Burrows said he has been in compliance with all county, state and federal laws since the restaurant opened. He has threatened to file a lawsuit if the restaurant is shut down by the county.

“I pay all my taxes and rent on the building and they want to pull my lease and shut down the banquet hall,” Burrows said. “They want me to turn it back into just a hangar station.”

Boyer, in a letter to Burrows, denied approval of two events in May, including the gun show. Boyer said hosting a gun show is not an event that the WBOA “considers compatible with federally obligated land.”

Sheboygan County Administrator Adam Payne referenced the gun show as activities that shouldn’t take place at an airport.

“We are beginning to hear more and more concerns about his service to the tenants of our airport,” Payne said. “It’s very important to Sheboygan County that we have a fixed-based operator that is providing excellent, high quality service to our tenants and others that utilize our Sheboygan County Memorial Airport.”

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