A $1.3 million condominium development for airplanes and airplane-related business at Cottonwood Airport won final plat approval by unanimous vote of the Cottonwood City Council on July 6, but questions were raised about the fairness of the deal.
The five-plex airplane hangar, which the law treats as a condominium because it consists of five walled-off sections within a single, 10,000-square-foot building, must form a nonprofit association and record bylaws to begin operation, City Attorney Steve Horton told council.
Tenants are expected to consist of people who own their own airplanes and aviation-related businesses, developer Bob Backus told council.
The expansive hangar was constructed more than 20 years after the developer leased city-owned property along the runway at Cottonwood Airport for a 100-year term starting in December 1983.
The developer pays a minimal annual lease payment to the city to occupy the land, but spent $1.3 million during the last two years to build the hangar complex, Backus said.
During public discussion, Cottonwood resident Bob Oliphant urged Backus to agree to modify his development company’s 100-year lease to include a $13,000 annual ground lease payment the city could use to create jobs and other economic development.
“I would ask Mr. Backus to agree to rewrite the lease so the citizens of Cottonwood can get a fair return,” Oliphant said.
Oliphant argued Backus holds what amounts to ownership of the property but pays virtually nothing for it.
Community Development Director George Gehlert reported some have urged the city to require its property be used to support economic development, but this was not contemplated when the lease was first signed in 1983.
Backus told council he believes the hangars will attract financially secure people who will invest in the local economy. Backus Family Investments’ development of the land already provided many local jobs, he said.
“We certainly want to see the property be used to create jobs and I believe that it will, but I can tell you one thing that’s not going to happen,” Backus said. “We’re not going to pay $13,000 a year.”
Under the final plat, council has the right to review the qualifications of subtenants wanting to lease the hangars.