Steamboat Springs Most of the participants in the debate over whether the city should lease land to a developer to build hangars at Steamboat Springs Airport have asserted a commitment to airplane hangars is equivalent to a long-term commitment to the airport.
City Council members, however, tried to separate the issues as they voted 6 to 1 Tuesday to sign a ground lease with Dunn Properties out of Denver that will lease 30 acres to the company for 40 years for hangar construction.
"The question tonight is not whether or not we support general aviation at the airport," said Councilman Bud Romberg. "It's whether or not we approve the second reading of this ordinance."
The council will continue looking at the logistics of managing the airport and plans to ask for more community participation in determining the airport's future.
The council gave the idea of building hangars tacit approval in December but has been cautious lately in signing a contract that could expose the city to litigation or financial losses if the airport closes.
The airport is currently subsidized by the city to the tune of more than $100,000 per year in operations.
Airport Manager Matt Grow estimates new hangars could bring in at least $60,000 from ground lease payments and fuel sales from the city-owned fixed-base operator fuel center once planes begin to inhabit the hangars.
Dunn Properties plans to build 11 hangars on 30 city-owned acres at the airport. Michael Dunn would own the hangars and would take the financial risk in constructing them. He then would sell them to private owners, who would take on the lease with the city.
The city wanted to enter into a 40-year lease deal with Dunn but did not want to be liable for the hangars if the airport is closed. On Tuesday, the council decided the risk was worth the chance to make some money at the airport.
And as Council President Kathy Connell noted, the city can always condemn the leased land if it needs or wants to close the airport if it is willing to pay fair market value.
Of the dozen or so people who spoke at the meeting, a few more were on the side of building the hangars, but the opposition was significant. Routt County commissioners, in fact, sent a letter to the council members asking them to consider holding off on making a decision as the city and county discuss creating an airport authority.
"We wonder if it's premature to make this decision," the letter read.
In addition, a group of six former City Council members asserted the city should be careful about making commitments to the airport. Former Councilman Jim Engelken read a letter to the council that urged the members to consider the hangar issue as a land-use issue, given the city could use its land for a number of purposes. Some have asserted the city is not helping the most people possible by using the land for an airport.
"We believe that in the course of weighing the pros and cons of the Dunn proposal, the City Council may be underestimating the future value of the land at the airport," Engelken said.
But the proponents of hangar development, many of whom are pilots, won out.
"Our need for hangars at Bob Adams (Field) is desperate," said Ron Pollard, who part-owns a Cessna. "We have so many people who want a hangar for their aircraft."