May 8, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
AOPA is expressing strong concern over the treatment of a recent proposal by a developer of aviation projects to construct a new facility at Florida’s Pompano Beach Airpark. It appears that after following the described process for approval, the proponent of the project was denied approval after meeting every request from the city, essentially leaving a sole-source provider of fuel services in place at the airpark and creating an exclusive-right situation in violation of FAA policy.
This latest rejection of a proposed development project mirrors several other instances of the city flouting federal aviation regulations over past years. As a result of hearing from members on this particular issue, AOPA again opened the files on the airport to see if there were additional discrepancies that needed to be revisited.
This newest issue is among numerous others engaged in by AOPA that stretches more than 20 years. And while the majority of these issues occurred under previous administrations, it appears that a culture within city government exists to repeatedly bring the same type of issues to the forefront.
“In fact, our association brought an action against the city under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 16 in 2003-2004,” wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, in a May 2 letter to Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fischer. “AOPA prevailed in our cause of action against the city as noted in the FAA Director’s Determination issued by the FAA in 2005. A corrective action plan was generated by the City and accepted by the FAA.”
Under the plan, the city was required to compensate the airport fund for nonaviation uses of airport property and create an airport capital development plan and fund improvements using the proceeds from nonaviation-use lands.
Despite this, AOPA has continued to raise questions that remain unanswered relating to the use of airpark property. “In spite of the corrective action plan with the FAA resulting from the AOPA Part 16 complaint, we are unable to ascertain whether the city continues to make use of portions of airpark property for non-aviation purposes and without due compensation to the airpark funding accounts or FAA approvals,” wrote Dunn.
Over many years, the city has, without FAA approvals, made use of airport property for nonaviation purposes such as a golf course, horse riding stables, and even city buildings, including a community center. “These non-aviation uses were implemented in violation of FAA rules, regulations and federal statutes. No funds were provided to the airport for these non-aviation uses,” said Dunn. “FAA and DOT IG investigations into this land use and exclusive rights on the airport date back to mid-1980s.”
Dunn asked for copies of the lease documents between the city and airpark regarding the water wells located on the west side of the airpark. “In the event that no actual leases exist, please advise as to the amount of lease payments/rents paid by the city or appropriate department to the airpark funding accounts. Additionally, are there any monetary payments to the airpark for water withdrawn from these wells?
“If the FAA has previously released these parcels from the airpark to be used for non-aviation purposes, AOPA would appreciate receiving the amount of funds paid to the airpark funding accounts from this sale or transfer,” said Dunn, who noted finding no official record of this having occurred.
“The Pompano Beach Airpark continues to be an extremely valuable asset to the city and we trust the city recognizes the significant contributions the airpark makes to the local economy,” said Dunn. “AOPA is committed to ensuring that GA airports receive appropriate compensation for the non-aviation uses of airport property. These uses should only occur if the FAA has approved the non-aviation uses and that the properties in question cannot be developed for general aviation facilities.”
The GAO released its report “Aviation Workforce: Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots,” and general aviation has a strong interest in its findings.
AOPA staff members updated attendees of the Montana Aviation Conference Feb. 27 through March 1 on the association's involvement in issues that affect pilots.
Pilots from Maine and New England turned out in numbers for the annual Maine Aviation Forum hosted by EAA Chapter 1434.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.