March 15, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA is opposing a “significantly flawed and injurious” set of new lease terms that the airport authority of Zelienople, Pa., is issuing to its tenants at the Zelienople Municipal Airport.
Difficulties posed by the leases include terms amounting to unlawful search and seizure within tenants’ leased facilities, and rules and regulations that can change without notice and with no means established for tenants to track them, wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, in a March 11 letter to airport management.
The leases would also require tenants to agree in advance to “vague and ambiguous” conditions by which they could be sanctioned for “unbecoming conduct.” Tenants would also be forced to assume costs of maintenance of airport property that they lease.
Dunn’s letter criticized a requirement for a tenant to hold general liability insurance—customarily a requirement for a business, but not an individual tenant. A related term requires a tenant to report unsafe conditions to the airport management but “make no report to any other person or entity for 24 hours thereafter.” Such a rule would strip tenants of First Amendment rights, affect safety of flight, and subject both the tenant and the airport administration to legal liability, Dunn wrote.
Zelienople’s airport tenants would also assume a reporting burden contained in a document accompanying the lease terms. It mandates a quarterly activity report to the airport manager.
“We have never seen such a requirement placed on tenants in any of our dealings with any publicly owned, public-use airport,” Dunn wrote to Airport Authority Chairman Tom Surgalski. “Keeping track of aircraft operations is the responsibility of the airport sponsor, FAA, or Department of Transportation and not the tenant.”
Dunn concluded his letter by urging the airport authority to withdraw the “significantly flawed” document until it has been overhauled.
AOPA has offered to provide Zelienople airport officials with samples of standard leases “that would better reflect the relationship that should exist between an airport management and its tenants,” he said.
A municipal website states that the airport “is experiencing considerable growth” because of its proximity to several industrial parks.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.