NoCo airport steps back from displacing private plane hangars at facility

LOVELAND – The Northern Colorado Regional Airport Commission on Thursday chose not to displace 60 private aircraft owners as it attempts to expand jet services at the airport.

The commission was set to consider a lease agreement with its fixed based operator, Fort Collins-Loveland jetCenter. The plan would have razed three T-hangars that house about 60 private planes and permitted jetCenter to build jet hangars and jet services on that land. 

Private plane owners complained about the lack of notice of the lease agreement, that their interests were not taken into consideration since private hangar space is in short supply along the Front Range, and they asked why the jetCenter proposal, an unsolicited bid, wasn’t opened up to competitive bids.

Jason Licon, the airport manager, said the jet services expansion is within the facility’s 2006 and 2020 master plans and was meant to provide for the highest and best use of the publicly owned property. The commission’s attorney said there were no legal issues with moving forward with the lease.

Members of the commission, however, pushed back. “If it’s public property, we would always open it to the entire market,” said Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry, who was attending his last meeting as a commissioner after resigning his position with the city. “I’m deeply philosophically and ethically concerned that anyone should have a shot at that project,” he said.

Atteberry asked whether any relationship, implied or otherwise, committed the commission to consider only the one jetCenter bid; he was told that the commission could take a different approach.

That approach consumed much of the rest of the meeting, with commissioners finally settling on a plan to have staff come back with a multi-layered proposal that might take the shape of requests for proposals.

Those layers will include one that addresses the expansion of jet services, one that addresses both jet services and private plane hangar access, and a third that addresses just the issue of private plane hangars. Commissioners voted unanimously on that approach while deciding not to take up the jetCenter lease proposal that had been included in pre-meeting materials.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the best,” said commissioner Curt Burgener. “I recommend putting it out for bid. Maybe this is the best deal, but we don’t know. Secondly, we owe it to the pilots who’ve supported this airport. We should subsidize development of hangars to make sure their rent doesn’t double or triple the first year,” he said.

The notion of subsidizing drew some discussion, with vice chairman Tom Fleming describing himself as “a hard-nosed capitalist” who would like to see whether the private pilots could come up with a solution for a group to finance construction of T-hangars in another location on the airport property. 

Fleming said the commission has a responsibility to the “250,000 people in this area who own the airport to look after their interests.” 

“In 17 years on these [airport governing] boards, I’ve tried to encourage an aspirational vision,” Atteberry said. “… I’ve been an advocate for improvement. The idea of a $30 million investment is super attractive to me. I am concerned about perception about how this decision gets made. It could hurt the credibility of this organization. If there was no commitment to jetCenter, why didn’t we allow anyone to participate? I don’t think I can recommend a lease to the Fort Collins City Council without an RFP [request for proposals] process,” he said.

“It puts at risk relationships, and that doesn’t feel good to me,” he said.

Jerry Stooksbury said he was concerned about the private pilots but also about the fixed based operator. He suggested divining a path that works with jetCenter to find a solution for both the jet services and the T-hangars.

“[I favor] respecting the rights and loyalties of the tenants of the airport. But we need to do the same thing for the jetCenter, which has been here a long time, too.  I wonder whether we should work with the players we already have at the table before going into the RFP process,” he said.

Sending the issue back to staff to present proposals to the commission for how to solve both jet and private hangar issues ultimately won the votes of the full commission.

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LOVELAND – The Northern Colorado Regional Airport Commission on Thursday chose not to displace 60 private aircraft owners as it attempts to expand jet services at the airport.

The commission was set to consider a lease agreement with its fixed based operator, Fort Collins-Loveland jetCenter. The plan would have razed three T-hangars that house about 60 private planes and permitted jetCenter to build jet hangars and jet services on that land. 

Private plane owners complained about the lack of notice of the lease agreement, that their interests were not taken into consideration since private hangar space is in short supply along the Front Range, and they asked why the jetCenter proposal, an unsolicited bid, wasn’t opened up to competitive bids.

Jason Licon, the airport manager, said the jet services expansion is within the facility’s 2006 and 2020 master plans and was meant to provide for the highest and best use of the publicly owned property. The commission’s attorney said there were no legal issues with moving forward with the lease.

Members of the commission, however, pushed back. “If it’s public property, we would always open it to the entire market,” said Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry, who was attending his last meeting as a commissioner after resigning his position with the city. “I’m deeply philosophically and ethically concerned that anyone should have a shot at that project,” he said.

Atteberry asked whether any relationship, implied or otherwise, committed the commission to consider only the one jetCenter bid; he was told that the commission…