The Saratoga Sun -

Nuisance gets pestered

Ordinance faces legal question at Saratoga Town Council

 

July 12, 2017



Saratoga Town Council met for its first meeting of the month Wednesday to speed through its agenda quickly, with two issues cropping up which took most of the time during the almost hourlong meeting.

Though the council worked through agenda items quickly, two issues brought up by a member of the public and a council member were center stage: airport leases and legality of the proposed nuisance ordinance.

AIRPORT HANGAR LEASES STILL PLAGUED WITH QUESTIONS

Hangar leases at the airport have been an issue for the airport board for many months, but a recent request by Brush Creek Ranch to sublet its hangar brought out other hangar lease holders to demand consistent treatment for all lease holders.

After reading the letter from Saratoga Jet Center requesting permission to occasionally sublease a hangar leased by Brush Creek Ranch, Dave Worthington, a member of the public who holds a lease at the airport, stood up to inform the council that several years ago, he had requested the same thing but was denied permission.

Several years ago, he tried to rent hangar space to another aircraft owner on a temporary basis, but was told the terms of his lease prevented subletting to others. According to Worthington, he was told at the time the minimum standards for the airport—the rules governing use of the airport—prohibited any commercial use of a privately leased hangar.Brush Creek’s hangar lease is a private lease, Worthington pointed out.

Worthington said he supported the rights of Brush Creek Ranch to sublet its hangar, and was asking the council to be consistent with other private lease holders.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this (allowing Brush Creek to sublet its hangar),” Worthington said. “But you do it for them, you’re going to have to do it for everyone.”

Richard Raymer, town council member and member of the airport board, explained the board was trying to avoid having private lease holders using their hangars for commercial business, and that he did not see a problem with an individual such as Worthington subletting a hangar to Saratoga Jet Center, which has a commercial lease and does commercial business at the airport.

“How is the FBO going to stay in business if everybody else is taking in income from the FBO that allows them to be there?” Raymer asked. An FBO, or Fixed Base Operator, is a company that operates services at an airport such as renting commercial hangar and tie-down space, selling fuel and other necessary services.

Worthington said he was not interested in renting out space on a short-term basis, but was more interested in finding a longer-term tenant who can use empty space in his hangar, such as a person building a kit plane. He also said he approached the former FBO operator and inquired about working with them to sublet the space.

He was told by the previous FBO they could not do that, he said. He was also prohibited from converting his lease to a commercial lease he said, having been told he was “too small” for a commercial lease.

Eager to move along, council members voted to allow the Saratoga Jet Center to lease space from Brush Creek Ranch, but were careful to point out the only precedent being set is allowing private hangar owners to sublease space to the Saratoga Jet Center.

The town will hold a workshop to bring together council members, airport board members, leaseholders and the FBO operator to hammer out whether private hangar owners can sublet space at the airport, and other long-running issues about hangar leases.

That meeting will be held 5:30 p.m., Aug. 2, at Saratoga Town Hall.

The town council also acted to award a $3.2 million runway resurfacing contract to the Century Companies of Montana, after the airport board opened three bids and made its recommendation.

The resurfacing will take 40 days, during which time the airport will be closed to traffic. The contract specifies that the contractor will have between March and May 15, 2018, to complete the project.

NUISANCE STATUTE IMPERILED?

When time came for new business before the council, council member Steve Willcoxson brought up the town’s proposed nuisance ordinance and suggested the council would be well advised to seek the opinion of an attorney before passing a new nuisance ordinance.

Willcoxson pointed out the town once had a nuisance ordinance, ordinance No. 625 which was passed by the town council Oct. 6, 1997. Soon after that ordinance was made law, ordinance No. 626 was passed by public referendum.

Ordinance 626 had the effect of repealing the nuisance ordinance.

According to Wilcoxson, the fact voters of Saratoga voted in favor of ordinance 626 which repealed ordinance 625, the town should seek the advice of an attorney before passing another nuisance ordinance.

The reason why, Willcoxson said, was state statute 22-23-1004. That statute says that any ordinance passed by public referendum can only be amended or repealed by public referendum.

Willcoxson said numerous citizens had brought their concerns about the proposed nuisance ordinance to him, and he discovered the potential legal hurdle while doing research.

State statute 22-23-1004 says:

“If a majority of the qualified electors voting on the question vote in favor of a proposed initiative ordinance, it is adopted and may not be repealed or amended except by a majority vote of the qualified electors of the municipality.

The municipal governing body may submit to a vote of the people at a special election or a regular municipal, primary or general election, the question of repealing or amending an ordinance adopted by initiative petition.”

What is not clear is whether the state statute applies. Even though voters passed ordinance 626 at public referendum—which had the effect of repealing another ordinance—the town is not seeking to amend or repeal ordinance 626. The town is proposing a new ordinance which was not repealed by voters when they approved ordinance 626.

The Saratoga Sun was not able to find any pertinent case law regarding the application of state statute 22-23-1004 in Wyoming courts, and none of the attorneys or law experts contacted by the paper were able to respond to the Sun’s questions by press time.

Councilman Will Faust said he agreed that the matter should be reviewed by an attorney. “Having clarity on that would be really crucial,” Faust said.

Mayor Ed Glode said he was not sure if the matter could be reviewed by an attorney before the council’s next meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m., July 18 at Saratoga Town Hall.

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