Pendleton airport administrators and general aviation businesses may have found a way to diffuse a simmering conflict over lease contract language.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the Pendleton Airport Commission voted to forward new lease language to the city council that will determine how the airport rents out space to businesses going forward.
At the heart of the conflict was disagreement over contract mechanism called a reversionary clause.
Unlike other parts of town, the land surrounding the airport can’t be sold, a condition of Federal Aviation Administration compliance.
Pendleton airport administration argued that the city needed to continue to include a clause that would require airport businesses to surrender use of the land once the lease was over. According to city officials, the airport needed to include the clause in land leases to stay compliant with the FAA and “recapture the value” of the land.
Airport businesses like aircraft repair and inspection companies balked at the proposed language, saying that previous airport administrations interpreted the language differently and a strict reversionary clause would kill business at the airport.
But after Wednesday’s meeting, both sides seem more optimistic about ground lease policy going forward.
The turnaround in the discussion was amending the proposal to include an option to allow tenants to avoid the reversionary clause if they paid double the standard lease rate over the course of the contract. Once their initial 30- to 50-year lease is over, renters would have the option of signing a new lease at the standard rate.
Airport Manager Steve Chrisman said neither side was 100 percent happy with the deal, but it allowed the airport to meet the FAA’s guidelines about recouping land value.
“I think it’s a fair compromise that gives everybody more options and more revenue for the airport,” he said.
Pendleton Aircraft Service owner Harold Nelson was one of the most vocal critics of the reversionary clause. A tenant who has been without a lease for more than three years, Nelson got into an argument with Chrisman at a February commission meeting.
But Nelson said Friday that the airport had made a 180 since February and the revised language was vastly improved.
“I think they did a good job,” he said.
David Styer, the owner of All Terrain Aircraft and a member of the airport commission, said he appreciated the commission’s work in introducing the new option.
“We’re opening our arms and door for businesses to come to Pendleton,” he said.
Although both sides seem comfortable with the compromise currently, it’s still not a done deal.
The lease contract proposal is now in the hands of the council, which has the power to amend it if they so choose.