Saturday, April 27, 2013

Boulder owes man $260K for airport agreement, jury rules: City plans to appeal verdict concerning runway access

Barry Barnow, photographed in 2012, looks for air traffic as he prepares to taxi his plane across the end of the runway at the Boulder Municipal Airport to his property via an over 50 year old easement in Boulder.

A Boulder County jury ruled this week the city of Boulder must pay almost $260,000 to nix a longstanding agreement with a Boulder man that allows him to access the Boulder Municipal Airport from his nearby property. 
After a four-day trial, the jury ruled that the city owes Barry Barnow, a pilot and owner of Boulder Valley Aviation, $259,900 for the access to the airport he has from his property at 5864 Rustic Knolls Drive.

"My interpretation is the jury was trying to tell the city something about their behavior throughout the process over these past six years," Barnow said Friday.

Barnow said he was "happy,' with Thursday's verdict, which comes after a long battle between him and the city over a "through the fence" agreement attached to the property, which Barnow bought in 2006. The city said the agreement -- which allows the property owner to taxi an aircraft directly to the airport runway -- posed a safety concern and did not comply with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines

After Barnow rejected both a $10,000 offer for the access agreement and a $350,000 offer for the entire property, the city decided to take the case to condemnation trial.

"We took this action because we wanted to make sure we complied with safety standards and in general with FAA rules and regulations," said Sarah Huntley, a spokeswoman with the city of Boulder. "We're definitely disappointed with the verdict. We believe the 'through the fence' agreement raises significant safety questions that we and the FAA have been seeking to address."

In 2009, the FAA decided that all such agreements should be eliminated, due to safety concerns. After some public outcry, the FAA created an interim policy that allows the use of the agreements as long as airports submit proof that the access meets federal requirements. That proof is required in order for airports such as Boulder's to receive FAA funds.

The city said in order for Barnow's agreement to meet regulations, it would have to build a taxiway from his property to the airport, so decided to instead take the matter to trial. The city valued the agreement's worth at $5,000 while Barnow estimated it's worth at $270,000.

"The city had maintained and still maintains, the 'through the fence' agreement did not contribute any value to the property." Huntley said. "The cost of building a taxiway to use the easement was over $1 million and that was cost-prohibitive."

Huntley said the city is considering an appeal. City attorneys said Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter prevented the city from bringing in FAA experts to testify to the safety concerns of the agreement, but did allow Barnow's attorneys to call a former FAA employee who presented a dissenting opinion.

"We believe a ruling the judge made before this case went to trial had a significant impact on the jury's deliberation," Huntley said. "At this point we will look carefully at the ruling, and look very carefully at the law and make a decision probably by the end of May about whether we are going to appeal this ruling."

Barnow said he felt the judge's rulings were fair.

"I think she ran the trial with great expertise," he said of Berkenkotter.

In the meantime, the city has taken immediate possession of the access. Should the city decide not to appeal the case or lose the appeal, it will buy the access from Barnow for the $259,900.

"The city felt that it was necessary because of the immediate safety concerns," Huntley said. "If we are unable to prevail in an appeal or choose not to appeal, the city will purchase that agreement at that cost."

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Low-flying airplane ban backers to meet in Hempstead, New York

The Town-Village Aircraft Safety Noise Abatement Committee will host a meeting on Monday to discuss concerns over low-flying planes and ways to control jet noise in communities near Kennedy Airport.

The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion, adjacent to Hempstead Town Hall, 1 Washington St. in Hempstead Village.

Voters to decide airport millage: West Michigan Regional (KBIV), Holland, Michigan

Holland —

Voters in Zeeland and Holland charter townships will decide on May 7 whether they will raise property taxes to support the West Michigan Regional Airport on Holland's south side.

The millage request is the same in both communities. Voters are being asked to approve paying 0.1 mill. That translates to 10 cents for each $1,000 in taxable property value or about $10 per year on a home with a taxable value of $100,000. If the measure passes, property owners would begin paying this year and continue through Dec. 31, 2017.

Holland Township voters rejected a similar measure in 2008, when voters in Park Township and the cities of Holland and Zeeland approved the levy.

The money would be used for a long list of bills, from planning and marketing to operations and new construction, according to the ballot language.

Holland Township tax revenues would amount to an estimated $111,108 this year, while Zeeland Township taxpayers this year would add about $32,000.

The West Michigan Airport Authority operates the airport and can apply for federal grants based on millages.

Absentee ballots for Holland Township voters are available by calling (616) 396-2345. You must submit an application before you may receive an absentee ballot. Those who would like to be on the township's permanent absentee voter list for being 60 years or older or having disabilities can call Laurie Slater at the Township office, (616) 396-2345.

Zeeland Township voters who need an absentee ballot must pick it up personally at the township office or have it mailed to them. Call (616) 772-6701 for details.

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