Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Clovis Municipal Airport (KCVN), Curry County, New Mexico: Civil Aviation Board votes to ban alcohol at airport

The city of Clovis doesn’t want alcohol at its airport. But people who fly and rent hangars there think the city’s going too far in changing policy to address the issue.

The city’s civil aviation board sided with city officials.

The board voted Tuesday night to recommend changing policy to ban consumption of alcohol throughout the airport, including privately rented hangars on the airport grounds.

Current policy bans drinking alcoholic beverage at the city-owned airport, but only in public areas.

Clovis City Code 16.04.170 states, “No person shall drink any alcoholic beverages upon any portion of the airport open to the public, except in such restaurant or other place as shall be properly designated and licensed for dispensing alcoholic beverages.”

City Attorney David Richards said the code is at least 40 years old, and needed an update.

“It’s hard to say what the intent was because it’s so poorly written,” Richards said. “It infers there are some places alcohol shouldn’t be. It infers if the airport were big enough, a lounge would be possible. I’m not sure we are a lot closer than we were in 1984 to having a lounge at the airport.”

Richards noted trash receptacles at the airport are often full of empty containers, and said there are concerns about drinking on the city-owned airport with narrow and poorly lit exit roads.

Alcohol is allowed at two other city-owned properties, the golf course and the Clovis Civic Center. In each case, Richards said, the city owns a governmental liquor license and monitors its use, though both facilities are managed by contracted companies.

He offered an amended version of 16.04.170, which stated, “It is unlawful for any person to possess or consume alcoholic beverage at Clovis Municipal Airport.”

Board member Jim Jennings called the policy overreach, and noted a person should be able to enjoy a cold beer while working on their own plane in the privacy of their hangar.

Mark Myers said the new policy would expand the enforcement area to include rented hangars that aren’t open to the public, and didn’t like the idea of “changing things midstream” on people locked into rental agreements. Richards said rental contracts require renters abide by all city airport policies, and do not bar the city from changing policies.

Myers still saw no point in changing policy, and asked how it served the people who used the airport.

“Does the board represent civil aviation,” Myers said, “or is it another arm of the city? It doesn’t say Clovis airport board. It says civil aviation board.”

Chairman Tom Phelps said the board handled concerns for both the airport and civil aviation in general.

Pilot Robert Thorn noted he’s been on flights with Boutique Air where alcohol was served. Though Boutique no longer offers alcohol on its flights, Thorn and others had concerns the policy would dissuade commercial and private jets from using the airport.

Airport Director Kyle Berkshire said he had no plans to search planes.

“What someone does on their own plane is their own business,” Berkshire said. “When it spills out (beyond the runways), that’s the concern.”

Amanda Arias of Blue Sky Aviation told Richards a photo of empty alcohol containers in the trash doesn’t prove alcohol was consumed at the airport, and noted people frequently throw trash from their planes into those containers.

Board members had an issue with criminalizing possession. Board member Donald Sharer said a person could buy a bottle of wine on a trip, fly home to Clovis and violate city rules while walking to their car. Phelps agreed, and said he’s done that before.

Richards likened the scenario to a police officer writing a ticket for 31 mph in a 30 mph zone — illegal, but unlikely to be pursued.

A motion was made to amend the policy to only address consumption, and recommend it to the Clovis City Commission. Jennings cast the lone dissenting vote.

The earliest the item could come forward is as an ordinance introduction in the Nov. 17 meeting. If introduced, it could be approved as early as the Dec. 1 meeting.

In other business at the meeting:

• Richards said the city commission will consider final approval of the purchase of the fueling hangar for Blue Sky Aviation. If passed, the deal could be closed as soon as Friday.

The agreement, signed by Moby, LLC, which owns the hangar, provides a purchase price of $450,000 for the hangar, its associated structures, equipment, furniture and concessions. Moby would have a separate agreement for the Hoffman Hangar it leases from the city, and pay a prorated share of assessed property taxes.

• Thorn, a Clovis resident who rents a hangar at the airport, said he was troubled Blue Sky Manager Carlos Arias was effectively banned from a public meeting.

Arias was notified Oct. 4 that he was banned from the airport and would be arrested if he entered airport property — including the terminal, where the meeting was held.

Though he is complying with the ban, Arias said he is fighting it. He cites Cyr v. Addison Rutland Supervisory Union, a 2014 ruling that a Vermont school violated a man’s First Amendment rights by banning him from its board meetings.

His spouse, Amanda Arias, attended the meeting and asked if and when the ban would be lifted. Phelps said it was not a board matter.

Jennings said banning Arias was a bad decision, noting, “Carlos has been out here 13 years, and he’s done more for the airport than anybody else put together.”

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