Court fight intensifies over Ogden airport hangar leases
Ogden City has asked a federal judge to deny an airport user group’s “drastic and even radical” request for an injunction to stop the city from ending long-running hangar leases.
The Ogden Regional Airport Association last spring filed suit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City alleging that new airport management plans will allow the city to illegally take improvements built into hangars after leases are not renewed.
The city denied the allegations and filed a motion that the suit be dismissed. Later, the association sought a preliminary injunction against any lease terminations before the suit is resolved.
Attorneys representing the city filed two more documents Nov. 12 — one requesting that the court now rule on its dismissal motion and the other opposing the association’s motion for an injunction and temporary restraining order.
“Plaintiffs are seeking drastic and even radical injunctive relief that will effectively preclude Ogden City from managing the Ogden City Airport consistent with their municipal authority and responsibilities as well as state and federal statutory and regulatory requirements,” the city argued. The city contended the move to “rewrite the lease agreements” and require the city to “renew them into perpetuity” would convert the hangars into “permanent fee estates.”
City plans have evolved over the years toward putting the airport on a better financial footing and to comply with federal regulations, the city said. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration has adopted regulations limiting storage of “non-aeronautical property” in hangars, the city said. The association has argued that storage of non-aircraft items in hangars is permitted by the FAA “if they did not impede the movement of aircraft.”
The city also challenged statements submitted by two former Ogden-Hinckley Airport managers, including a contention that the city historically allowed lease owners a right of first refusal when terms expired and that “the airport was aware and even encouraged hangar owners to rely on their right of first refusal.”
In its filing last week, the city said it does not dispute that association members are entitled to enforcement of the terms of their lease agreements, but the city disputes any implication that it or any authorized representative waived any right to the enforcement of contract terms and rights secured by those lease agreements. The city noted the lease claims came from two former airport managers who were fired and still hold hangar leases there.
The association accused the current airport manager, Bryant Garrett, and the city attorney’s office of executing “a scheme to get around owners’ right of first refusal and established policies and practices to terminate owners’ leases and take their hangars without fair compensation.”
The city said new lease agreements for hangars have not contained a right of refusal since 2017, and the city “has never promised any kind of perpetual or unending right to the renewal of lease agreements.” Further, the city council on April 20 this year “eliminated language related to first rights of refusal for airport leases.”
The city said it always has reserved the right to structure leases to meet the needs of the airport. In 2016, the city adopted an administrative policy stating that lease renewals may not be available, or may carry a shortened term, if a new lease renewal would conflict with airport redevelopment plans.
The association quoted from a business plan in which the city outlined potential steps for phasing out leases, including demolition of hangars 50 or more years old. “Hangars needed to be removed before their lawful lease is up will likely need to be compensated,” the document said.
But in its court filing, the city said that document was a draft, not approved by any city officials and not authorized for public release.
Judge Jill Parrish has taken the arguments under advisement and no further hearings have yet been set.