Erie, CO Airport
R. Scott deLuise Shares the Challenges Experienced at the Erie Airport
Erie, CO Municipal Airport was originally established in the early 1970's as a privately owned, public use, two runway airpark of 110 homesites, 14 commercial lots, and the crossing runway configuration as a third, separately owned parcel. The airpark, 11 miles east of Boulder and 20 miles north of Denver, was originally known as Erie Tri-County Airport, because of it's location at the three corners of Boulder, Weld, and Broomfield Counties.
In 1987, the developer granted an effective perpetual easement (as long as the property was maintained as an airport) which included covenants guaranteeing access, maintenance of taxiways and runways, and an opt-in covenant for homeowners who did not execute the original easement. In consideration for this access, the homeowners agreed to pay a maintenance fee as established in the easement with inflation escalators.
In 1991 The FAA granted GA Reliever status to the Airport, and paved 15/33 in concrete, albeit 800 ft shorter than its original 5480 ft. In 1992 Skies Unlimited (the original developer) filed bankruptcy - The FAA, desperate to maintain the GA Reliever status, solicited the Town of Erie as a purchaser, and funded the purchase for the Town. The Town then bought the airport in 1994. The east-west runway was neglected by the Town and FAA because of the FAA policy of discouraging crossing runway configurations, but as it turns out, the main paved runway as funded by FAA was based on a faulty wind study, and is the real crosswind! The east-west runway remained open until 2001, at which time it was closed temporarily because the Town had no money to maintain it, and FAA took the position that they would not fund it because they were not in favor of intersecting crosswind runways. The Town then shortened the east-west runway, which changed the RVZ, thereby enabling them to sell three residential lots for over $300,000 each. Along the Colorado front range, the prevalent winds are out of the northwest, necessitating east-west runway configurations at most airports. In 2009, the Town decided to route a pedestrian trail along the west boundary of the airport, directly under the approach end of the e/w runway. FAA, in collusion with the Town, decided to use this trail as the death call for the shorter intersecting runway. In spite of an economic development study that recommended that the runway not be removed unless there was a higher and better use for the right of way, the Trustees, without public comment and without recommendation of the Airport Advisory Board, voted to remove the runway from the ALP. The HOA has sued, and obtained a temporary restraining order to require the Town to maintain the east-west runway in its present condition until an injunction can be put in place.
Of course, at the time the airport became a federally funded public use airport, a very informal through the fence arrangement was put in place, effectively under the same terms, conditions and fees as the original maintenance fee. Since the airport proper is only the runways, and no surrounding land, the only revenues supporting operations are fuel tax reimbursement, minor rent for the FBO building, and residential and commercial TTF fees. Interestingly, the Town has failed to collect fuel tax reimbursements from the State as well as invoice users for TTF fees as required by ordinance.
In 2009 as a result of the FAA threat of withholding ALP funding for violations of grant assurances, including residential TTF, the Town decided not to accept TTF fees as they had previously done since 1982. In an effort to appease the FAA, the Town Administrator obtained a copy of the commercial TTF agreement from Addison, TX, modified it, and submitted it to FAA, again without review or approval of the AAB, in an attempt to mollify FAA. This agreement, needless to say, was extremely onerous for residential TTF at the airport, and would have effectively eliminated TTF after the 20 year term of the agreement. A group of homeowners has sued the Town in a separate matter to enforce the 1981 easement containing the TTF provisions.
It is readily apparent that this airport and airpark are under siege by the Town of Erie and FAA, with the support of the Colorado Department of Aviation. We'll keep you up to speed on our progress to protect this valuable asset and our lifestyles.
R. Scott deLuise, CCIM, SPPA