Airpark Land Ownership vs. HOA

We received the following email from a Living With Your Plane reader today. Please post your feedback in the comment area below the letter.

I am looking for experiences and suggestions pertaining to residential airparks where a developer or individual owns the underlying land of the runway(s), taxiways, roads and other common areas. In my particular instance, the primary Home Owners Association (HOA) is chartered with maintaining these areas and has collectively paid for paving the runway, adding runway lights, grading and fill of graveled areas, etc. Attorneys have told the HOA that they are responsible for safety by this action of maintaining the runway and common areas, and less-so the underlying land owner.

Our underlying land owner is a resident pilot and dues-paying HOA member. However he is reluctant to relinquish his overall control. This has already caused conflicts where residents feel his actions on his land adjacent to the runway (declared right-of-way and easement) create an unsafe aviation condition, but are powerless to change it. The HOA is never consulted beforehand either. In addition, our small airpark with about 25 owners has three separate HOA/covenant boundaries which were determined when each area was sold. The irrigation and trash users are also separate entities.

I have heard some stories that had non-HOA owned underlying land, but the underlying owner had either defaulted on loan or taxes, or sold to another who was less “aviation friendly” and major legal battles have then ensued. Personal tragedy happens every day with unexpected results, so our current owner’s level of cooperation may not always be there.

Although we receive no federal funds, the recent FAA policy change for federally obligated airports and treating any airpark homeowners as “through-the-fence” (TTF) operations is also worrisome. It does not take much imagination to get TSA similarly involved and then worried about those non-vetted pilots living at an airport yet possibly being a potential national security risk. If the HOA owned the underlying land, then residents are no longer TTF.

Since our HOA owns no land and does not pay taxes, it has a limited voice when dealing with county and other government levels too. New taxes and insurance may be small price to pay for increased control with overall airpark land ownership.

So please reply if you have some thoughts or help on the subject of underlying land ownership.