||News Release #4
Friends Of The Crested Butte Airport, Inc.
PO Box 1230, Crested Butte, CO 81224
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.