The following material was provided by a Living With Your Plane subscriber.
This survey was an informal fact-finding effort, with the objective of learning how other airparks have dealt with CC&R safety violations. I called approximately 50 airparks in and around Idaho, and held long conversations with over two dozen airport managers or association officers. The airparks ranged in size from several lots to well over 100 lots. This is a good-faith report that is as accurate as non-structured telephone interviews can be expected to be. I took the interviewees’ statements at face value because they had no apparent motive to distort the truth. No attempt has been made to further verify the accuracy of their stories.
- Every airpark reported at least some trouble — at minimum: arguments about spending for runway maintenance and enhancement between plane-owners and non plane-owners; or differing priorities between wealthy and financially-challenged lot owners. A common complaint was that non plane-owners tend to vote against airport maintenance or improvements. Another was that wealthy lot owners want to spend more than the less-wealthy can afford.
- Nearly every airpark reported having one or more “trouble-maker,” as they referred to them.
- Violations reported, in order of frequency: Unauthorized activity on airport, refusal to pay dues, setback and height violations, trees, easement problems, adverse possession of airport land, unsafe air operations (usually parachute operations), vandalism, and drugs.
- Nearly every airpark has had to do a law suit for safety-related violations and has had to take legal action for refusal to pay dues. Government authorities are of little help.
- All airparks claim to have won their cases. [I do not have much data on who had to pay legal costs, but I get the sense that the associations were reimbursed in about half of the cases.]
- Some claim to have avoided violations and legal expense by confronting the offender with brute force.
- 100% advised that if you do not stop violations by whatever means necessary, the airpark will be damaged forever. In most cases, the necessary means were law suit or lien.
Safety and Liability-protection Strategy
- The ratio of Public Use to Restricted was about 50/50.
- A significant number of airports were residential/commercial.
- Incorporation was relatively common.
- Probably more than half had insurance, yearly fees ranging from $1200 to $5000.
- Some without insurance felt that insurance attracted law suits. Others with insurance advised against having “too much” insurance, which would attract law suits.
- One airport reported an obvious pilot-error accident, where the insurance company paid.
- One airpark without insurance reported being Restricted, with the runway X’d. This allows lot-owner air traffic, but scares away uninvited visitors who might land.
- Some of the Public Use airports listed: “Advance permission required,” and “At your own risk.”
- All reported frustration with inability to get help for safety violations from government agencies.
Miscellaneous and Words of Wisdom from Older Airparks
- Most associations own a tractor. Most associations report that finding volunteers to do maintenance work (mowing, plowing, improvements) is a chronic problem.
- Nearly all airparks had CC&Rs. Weak CC&Rs (including CC&Rs without penalties for violations) most often lead to more trouble and legal expense. On the other had, overly-detailed restrictions can also contribute to trouble. Straight-forward CC&Rs with teeth seem to be the most effective.
- Airparks go through a learning cycle of trouble followed by law suit. After the ordeal, most say they have achieved stability by learning to have zero tolerance for safety violations, reasonable tolerance for aesthetic violations, and swift legal action when needed.
- “Have no more rules than necessary, but no less rules than necessary.”
- “Keep safety as the primary focus.”
- “Stay on top of it.”
- The association should send out letters for every violation observed. This will usually fix the problem, but if not, at least it gives the association some liability protections.
- The best defense against a repeat violator is the solidarity of all other landowners, say all airparks. [Two claim that brute force is the most expedient and cost effective.]
- A creative, expensive solution for removing trouble-makers that was utilized by at least two airparks: several airparks’ associations bought back land from offenders.
- In one case, the court settlement was that the airline captain offender had to sell his property, and forever come no closer to the airport than 10 miles by land or air.