Turbulence ahead

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JUDD WILSON/Press On behalf of many pilots and hangar owners at the Coeur d’Alene Airport, Mike Kincaid called Wednesday night for a total rewrite of proposed rules and regulations put forth by airport director Steven Kjergaard and consultant John DeCoster.

HAYDEN — In a standing-room-only meeting Wednesday night, the Coeur d’Alene Airport Advisory Board got an earful of public feedback on airport director Steven Kjergaard’s proposal to overhaul rules and regulations.

Current standards have been in place at the airport since 1993. Kjergaard had hired John DeCoster, a Minneapolis-based consultant from Trillion Aviation with whom he had worked on airport issues in Williston, N.D., to draft new Coeur d’Alene regulations at a cost of approximately $20,000. At first glance, many of the private pilots and hangar owners here are not too happy with what they’ve seen.

A major issue, said Frank O’Connell, is the draft’s reversion clause. It would give privately-funded hangars to the county airport upon the expiration of their leases. Kjergaard and DeCoster clarified that the reversion clause would apply to new hangar leases, but not to the current hangar leases. Currently hangar owners, who spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to build the structures, have the option to remove the hangars, resell them to a private owner, or sell them to the county at fair market value, Kjergaard said.

During the meeting Wednesday Kjergaard explained that the airport had been in the practice of forming a new 50-year lease whenever one of its privately-built hangars was sold to a new owner. That doesn’t happen at any other airport and needs to end, said Kjergaard. The draft proposes to give private hangar owners much shorter leases, followed by an option to exend, at the discretion of the airport. Lease terms will be two, five, or 20 years depending on the size of the investment, according to the draft. However, following the end of the lease, the hangar owner will have to choose whether to physically remove the hangar from the airport, or to revert ownership to the county, Kjergaard said.

Following a comment by DeCoster citing IRS rules on amortization in defense of the reversion clause, Realtor and pilot Anne Anderson said she thought the argument was inappropriate. The hangars would have value following the expiration of their leases, she said.

“There are a ton of commercial buildings over 100 years old that have a lot of value,” she observed. The county shouldn’t unduly burden new hangar owners, she added. New hangar owner and longtime pilot Chris George agreed. While stating that the Coeur d’Alene Airport community was vibrant and blessed, George questioned whether the airport could stay that way with the proposed restrictions.

Advisory board member Jim Thorpe shared a similar sentiment. “It doesn’t matter if it’s current or future hangars, it still destroys value if it’s not there for perpetuity,” he said. When DeCoster pushed back on his comment by citing the FAA, Thorpe replied, “People who have spent millions on facilities might have a different opinion of that.”

Mike Kincaid spoke in opposition to the draft proposal on behalf of an ad hoc committee made up of airport stakeholders. Kincaid complained that the draft was poorly written, full of contradictions, too detailed and hard to understand, and imposed rules that defied the existing culture of the airport.

“We are common-sense people who appreciate the airport environment and just want to enjoy the airport safely.”

Kincaid called for the board to throw out the first draft, form a long-term committee including stakeholders, and come up with “a well-written, simple to understand” document that “fosters the safe enjoyment of our airport for all users.”

DeCoster and Kjergaard agreed that some of the language could be clarified, but Kjergaard balked at adopting some of Kincaid’s suggested changes. “There’s some conversation we’re going to have, but I’m not sure where you think it is,” he told Kincaid.

One provision that irritated the crowd mightily was the section on alcohol consumption. They loudly booed at the thought of needing the airport director’s permission to pop a top in their hangars. We just want to put up a lawn chair in front of the hangar and have a beer, said Kincaid. Kjergaard said, “We’re allowing you to do that on your premises.” DeCoster clarified, “If it’s your hangar, your premises, you have freedom. If it’s on county premises, there’ll be restrictions.”

Pilot Brent Regan cautioned the board from going down the path he said the county went down when it spent $800,000 on developing a unified land code and then resisted public feedback on it. “Eight hundred thousand dollars got flushed down the toilet,” he said. Listen to Kincaid, he said, and “take your time on this,” Regan said.

Advisory board chair Joan Genter explained that following the evening’s feedback, the board would continue to receive input on the first draft, and then would come up with a second draft that incorporated the public input. That draft should be available in 6-8 weeks, said Kjergaard. It will be made available on the airport’s website and Facebook page, with another opportunity for the public to weigh in, he said.

Kjergaard said the rewrite was necessary to move forward with seeking new business development on the north side of the airport. “Current minimum standards don’t address the definition of commercial business very well.” The minimum standards section of the draft proposal is geared toward commercial fixed base operators, whereas the rules and regulations section of the draft is geared towards private persons. Kjergaard added that the new, more detailed standards will “create a level playing field at the airport” for businesses. It’s a policy priority for the FAA as well, he said. Once the rewrite is complete, he will actively seek quotes for new businesses there, he said.

Coeur d’Alene Airport Association President Greg Gfeller complimented the way that Kjergaard and Genter had handled the process, and looked forward to the ongoing collaborative process. DeCoster praised the airport for its infrastructure, diverse offerings, and overall excellence. It’s comparable to non-hub commercial airports he’s seen such as Green Bay, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., said the Northwest Airlines veteran.

Kjergaard asked that public comments on the first draft be submitted no later than Friday, June 22. Comments may be emailed to kcair@kcgov.us. To read the existing rules and the proposed changes, go to: cdaairport.com/documents.asp.

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