Four airport hangar buildings, which are owned privately but sit on city property, are at the center of an impasse between officials who want to clear the land for incoming businesses and hangar owners who feel the relocation of the airport caused them a financial burden.
“I hope that as you consider what to do with the hangars, you will do what’s right, not simply the minimum that is legally required,” said local businessman Ron Shank during last Monday’s city council meeting. “When we signed those leases we didn’t think the city would close such a well-established airport.”
Shank and the hangar owners contend that they lost value in their property when the city converted the old Greensburg airport into the Greensburg Industrial Park.
“When you take an airport away from an airport hangar, what you have left is just a shed and that decreases its value,” said Shank on Monday morning.
Shank added that in his discussions with past city administrators he had always been promised compensation, though an exact amount was never discussed.
“I have had an opportunity to visit with the affected hangar owners trying to reach some type of closure,” said newly hired City Administrator Ed Truelove. “Obviously they believe there is a large value in these buildings as an airport hangar. They are more than likely correct but some of the buildings date back to the 1940s. What kind of value do you assign to that? As a city we are trying to move forward with a new airport facility. We have to assist the business park towards its purpose as well. It’s a tough situation to be in.”
Truelove said that the council has discussed the hangars in executive session and that he was unable to comment on specifics.
“We are trying to find a common ground between the city and the landowners but right now I am not sure what they city is going to decide. It will be up to the council after we do all of the due diligence,” added Truelove.
The city had previously entered into five-year leases at various times with the four hangar owners but it allowed the majority of them to lapse. Some of the hangar owners have not had leases with the city for more than a year.
The leases, aside from defining length of occupancy, also state that after 90 days all buildings remaining on the land become the property of the city.
Truelove was asked if the city would enforce that portion of the lease and remove the buildings.
“I think that would be untimely,” said Truelove. “That would be a major decision. The city doesn’t want these buildings. We don’t want to knock them down and say ‘oh, that’s our building.’ That seems petty. I think we’re trying to approach this from a viewpoint of let’s have a win-win. We’re going to try to strive for that.”
Page 2 of 2 - Legally, the city has no obligation to compensate the owners. The leases are not contingent upon there actually being an airport adjacent to the land, though the title of the lease is “Airport Hangar Site Lease.”
“It is a common practice that when government deprives a property owner of the use of his property, the government compensates the property owner sufficiently to replace his property,” said Shank in open session on Monday.
With the airport closed for more than a year, Shank said he had to move his plane to another hangar, with added expense, though he has had a lease in Greensburg.
“I believe [the title] implies that there will be an airport for the term of the lease,” he said.
Shank is in a unique situation because he is the only hanger owner who still has an active lease. He signed a new lease with the city after he bought a second hanger following the 2007 tornado and the lease term doesn’t expire until after 2013.
Shank said that the city has offered to buy out the remaining term of his lease. He knows his lease is somewhat of a bargaining chip and that his getting bought out has an effect on the other hangar owners.
“I’m trying the best I can to balance between my own interest and the interest of the other hangar owners,” he said.
Shank praised Truelove saying that he felt the newly hired city administrator was approaching the issue in the correct way and that he also believes the city council will act ethically. “Most people would agree that this is the right thing to do.”