Saturday, September 1, 2018

Ventura County, California: Hangar talks stay on course

After months of contention, owners and tenants of airplane hangars at the Camarillo and Oxnard airports seem to be making progress in their quest to resolve a dispute with the Ventura County Department of Airports over longterm ownership of the hangars.

The buildings, many of which are owned by members of the Ventura County Hangar Owners and Tenants Association, have sat for three decades on countyowned land, for which hangar owners usually pay between $100 and $200 a month.

After hangar owners wanted new lease terms that allowed subletting, the county department of airports looked at what best practices were, said Jorge Rubio, the deputy director of airports.

County officials found that long-term leases that don’t end in airport ownership are discouraged by funding guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration, Rubio said.

So last year the Department of Airports proposed new leases that last between 10 and 20 years and end with the county taking control of the land and the hangars in order to rent out the space to aviators, a process known as reversion.

The county argues that hangar owners have had plenty of time over the past several decades to recoup their investments.

The owners, however, say the county is using misleading logic to determine the worth of the hangars in a bid to take their private property and leave them with nothing. Some of the owners said they have paid as much as $100,000 for their hangars.

During a raucous town hall in June, nearly 30 speakers blasted Rubio. Since then, the hangar owners’ attorney, Chuck Cohen of Westlake-based law firm Cohen Begun & Deck, began lobbying county officials on the hangar owners’ behalf.

Now it seems both sides have agreed to try to figure out a compromise.

Gene Barlowe, vice president of the hangar owners’ association, said his group met with Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County, for a discussion about the hangars earlier this month.

Barlowe said that, while no decisions were made, both sides got to know each other and stated their positions so that negotiations can begin.

“We made it very clear that reversion has to be taken off the table if we are to proceed. I don’t know if they’ll go for it or not, but it’s a reasonable thing to request,” Barlowe said.

In an email, Powers said the discussions of “complicated issues” went well.

“We are taking the time to listen and understand all perspectives to try to find the right balance. . . . Our office will continue to work with the Department of Airports’ leadership to ensure (the airport) remains a vital community asset long into the future,” Powers said. “Our goal is to arrive at an agreement that is both fair and that continues support of opportunities for FAA funding to further enhance the airport.”

The hangar owners’ representatives sat down with Rubio on Aug. 23, Barlowe said, and the owners want to meet again in early September.

While discussions continue, the county’s Department of Airports is pausing plans to release the next version of its proposed lease agreement, Rubio said.

In July, he told the Acorn that the next draft of the proposed lease would be coming in a few weeks, but with ongoing negotiations, the department wants to hold off until a more balanced approach has been found, he said.

Barlowe said the negotiations between the county and hangar owners are progress in themselves, and he is hopeful an impasse can be avoided.

“It feels we’re going to be able to address this with reason, compassion and mutual respect,” Barlowe said. “It’s a breath of fresh air. We still don’t know how it’s going to go, but we’re hoping for the best.”

Original article ➤

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