News Release #4
Friends Of The Crested Butte Airport, Inc.
PO Box 1230, Crested Butte, CO  81224
Tel/Fax 800-663-5374
avionclub@hotmail.com     www.cbairport.org
Carlo Cesa: 303-905-7540
 
 
Friends of The Crested Butte Airport Announces Two Important Court Victories In Battle To Save Local Airport
 
July 23, 2002, Crested Butte, Colorado — The Friends of the Crested Butte Airport Association, Inc. (a non-profit organization) today announced that its efforts to save the Crested Butte Airport from closure and/or an unsafe shortening of the runway have been significantly bolstered by recent rulings from the District Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals.
 
 
A. County's Sweetheart Agreement With Real-Estate Developer Overturned
 
In a proceeding under Colorado's Rules of Civil Proceedings (CRCP) 106(4)(a), District Court Judge Dennis Friedrich of Montrose, Colorado, has specifically ordered that Gunnison County not allow any further work to take place at the Crested Butte Airport (i.e., the proposed shortening and destruction of more than 500 feet of paved runway).
 
However, the Montrose Judge stopped short of describing the actions of the Gunnison County Commissioners as "arbitrary and capricious", as charged by the four local pilots that brought the lawsuit against the County, because the Commissioners sought the advice of a so-called airport expert, Mr. Rick Dunkelberg, who incredulously stated that the runway had to be shortened to "improve [flight] safety" and "comply with FAA standards" (the 4,485-foot runway is located at an elevation of 8,980 ft. above sea level). As previously reported, the conclusions of the so-called airport consultant were presented at a closed-door meeting between the "expert" himself, the real estate developer who has sought to close the airport, and the County Commissioners. The public was not informed of this meeting, which was held on December 4, 2000, nor was anyone else invited.
 
The District Judge maintained that it does appear, at first blush, "curious" that the County Commissioners made a dramatic shift in their earlier ruling that rejected a road across the runway, as proposed by the real estate developer. In 1999, the County Commissioners rejected the road for safety and other reasons. The developer sued the County in District Court and lost the lawsuit. Shortly thereafter (after the 2000 elections), for some unknown reason the County Commissioners reconsidered the same "unsafe" road and approved it, after being threatened with further litigation by the real estate developer.
 
In his recent ruling, District Court Judge Dennis Friedrich ordered that no further action by any party may take place in furtherance of the agreement entered into by Gunnison County and the real estate developer in said case (01CV18).
 
 
B. Local Gunnison County Judge Reversed By Colorado Court of Appeals In Crested Butte Airport Lawsuit
 
The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in a 28-page opinion (01CA1310) dated July 18, 2002, that Gunnison County District Judge Steven Patrick erred when he ordered rescission of a sales contract involving certain commercial airport property that was purchased by local businessman and pilot Carlo Cesa (99CV34). Based on the unambiguous language of an easement, the Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed with Judge Patrick's ruling that there was "no meeting of the minds" regarding the length, scope, and use of the runway. The local judge has been reversed on this issue. Before becoming a judge, Steven Patrick was employed as an attorney at a firm that has represented the real-estate developer who currently seeks to close and/or dangerously shorten the runway at the Crested Butte Airport.
 
In other issues at stake in this case, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded portions of the case with directions (99CV34). These issues include breach of contract, breach of easement, trespass on the easement, fraud, misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, breach of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA), and claims for declaratory and injunctive relief to require the developer to maintain the runway at its current length and not construct a proposed road at one end of the runway.
 
* * *
 
As we understand these rulings and opinions, they should be sufficient to prohibit Gunnison County and the real estate developer from shortening the runway (by destroying more than 500 feet of its pavement) and from restricting the use of what would be left of the airport to no more than fifteen local pilots.
 
County Commissioners Continue To Support The Real Estate Developer
 
On July 16, 2002, a few days before the opinion of the Colorado Court of Appeals was made public, the Gunnison County Commissioners, after emerging from yet another "closed-door" executive session, did not appear to understand the import of Montrose Judge Friedrich's ruling in 01CV18.
 
The County Commissioners, supported by advice of the County Attorney and the real estate developer's counsel, appeared under the impression that all things would be resolved by simply striking one sentence of their previous agreement with the developer... a sentence that "precludes" any reopening of safety issues involving the airport.
 
One of the attorneys representing local pilots in the litigation told the County Commissioners that the Judge Friedrich's ruling presented a "golden opportunity" for the County to walk away from their previous and unwise agreement with the developer. This attorney informed the County Commissioners that now they could do what is "right" regarding the airport and its value to the community. Such advice fell on deaf ears, however, as the Commissioners continued their quest to please the developer at any cost.
 
At their July 16, 2002 meeting, the County Commissioners resolved to (1) move forward with the Stipulation and Agreement with the real-estate developer under the auspices of the County's Land Use Resolutions; (2) request a another joint public hearing with the Gunnison County Planning Commission; (3) file a motion to "stay" the order of District Court Judge Friedrich; (4) ask for clarifications of the judge's order; and (5) file a notice of appeal against Judge Friedrich's order.
 
During the course of this meeting, just before the motion for the items mentioned above was put forward, one of the County Commissioners asked the real estate developer (on the record), "Is this what you want, Dick?" The developer's attorney nodded "yes", and the motion was approved unanimously by all three commissioners.
 
Also significant, and based on the Appellate Court Ruling, Avion Park LLC is confirmed to have a property right in the runway; if Gunnison County Commissioners continue to proceed with their sweetheart agreement with the developer, the County will subject itself to other lawsuits based on the 5th amendment of the U.S. Constitution for uncompensated taking.
 
Not only that, Gunnison County taxpayers will continue funding this battle on behalf of the Denver based real-estate developer.
 
The Friends of the Crested Butte Airport Association continues to maintain that a shortening of the runway will negatively affect safety and will prevent many aircraft, including fixed wing air ambulance and other emergency aircraft, from flying into and out of the airport. In effect, the airport will be closed, to the detriment of the Crested Butte community and its economic future.
 
We urge all concerned pilots and citizens to call (and/or write) each Gunnison County Commissioner and request that these officials, who were elected to represent ALL of the citizens of the county, vote to resolve this issue in a manner that provides the greatest benefits to the community, instead of voting in a manner that primarily benefits one Denver- based real estate developer. The Crested Butte airport represents a tremendous asset to the community, the future safety of its citizens and the well-being of its economy. Any pilot, or anyone with some common sense, understands that a 4,500 foot-long runway at an elevation of 9,000 feet above sea level cannot, and should not, be shortened as proposed by the real estate developer and the County Commissioners.
 
We have provided contact information for each County Commissioner below.
 
Mr. Fred Field, Rancher, 265 County Road 76, Parlin, CO 81239 Tel. 970-641-4179
Mr. Perry Anderson, Inn-Keeper, Wildwood Motel, 1312 W. Tomichi Avenue,
Gunnison, CO 81239 Tel. 970-641-1663 (Home/Office) Fax 970-641-7044
Mr. Jim Starr, Attorney at Law, PO Box 1167, Crested Butte, CO 81224-1167
Tel. 970-349-5363 (Office) 970-349-6862 (Home) Fax 970-349-5017
Office of Gunnison Board of County Commissioners
200 E. Virginia Ave, Gunnison, Colorado 81230 Fax 970-641-3061
 
The Friends of the Crested Butte Airport, Inc. (a non profit organization approved to receive fully deductible contributions under IRS tax code 501(c) 3), faces very high legal expenses and need your continued support. Please send a contribution to the Friends of the Crested Butte Airport, Inc., PO Box 1230, Crested Butte, CO 81224-1230. Tel/Fax 800-663-5374.
 
 
 
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