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"Colorado city owes man $260K for airport TTF agreement, jury rules"



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Boulder owes man $260K for airport agreement, jury rules
City plans to appeal verdict concerning runway access
By Mitchell Byars
The Boulder (CO) Camera


A Boulder County jury ruled this week the city of Boulder must pay almost
$260,000 to nix a longstanding agreement with a Boulder man that allows him
to access the Boulder Municipal Airport from his nearby property. 

After a four-day trial, the jury ruled that the city owes Barry Barnow, a
pilot and owner of Boulder Valley Aviation, $259,900 for the access to the
airport he has from his property at 5864 Rustic Knolls Drive. 

"My interpretation is the jury was trying to tell the city something about
their behavior throughout the process over these past six years," Barnow
said Friday. 

Barnow said he was "happy,' with Thursday's verdict, which comes after a
long battle between him and the city over a "through the fence" agreement
attached to the property, which Barnow bought in 2006. The city said the
agreement -- which allows the property owner to taxi an aircraft directly to
the airport runway -- posed a safety concern and did not comply with Federal
Aviation Administration guidelines 

After Barnow rejected both a $10,000 offer for the access agreement and a
$350,000 offer for the entire property, the city decided to take the case to
condemnation trial. 

"We took this action because we wanted to make sure we complied with safety
standards and in general with FAA rules and regulations," said Sarah
Huntley, a spokeswoman with the city of Boulder. "We're definitely
disappointed with the verdict. We believe the 'through the fence' agreement
raises significant safety questions that we and the FAA have been seeking to
address." 

In 2009, the FAA decided that all such agreements should be eliminated, due
to safety concerns. After some public outcry, the FAA created an interim
policy that allows the use of the agreements as long as airports submit
proof that the access meets federal requirements. That proof is required in
order for airports such as Boulder's to receive FAA funds. 

The city said in order for Barnow's agreement to meet regulations, it would
have to build a taxiway from his property to the airport, so decided to
instead take the matter to trial. The city valued the agreement's worth at
$5,000 while Barnow estimated it's worth at $270,000. 

"The city had maintained and still maintains, the 'through the fence'
agreement did not contribute any value to the property." Huntley said. "The
cost of building a taxiway to use the easement was over $1 million and that
was cost-prohibitive." 

Huntley said the city is considering an appeal. City attorneys said Boulder
District Judge Maria Berkenkotter prevented the city from bringing in FAA
experts to testify to the safety concerns of the agreement, but did allow
Barnow's attorneys to call a former FAA employee who presented a dissenting
opinion. 

"We believe a ruling the judge made before this case went to trial had a
significant impact on the jury's deliberation," Huntley said. "At this point
we will look carefully at the ruling, and look very carefully at the law and
make a decision probably by the end of May about whether we are going to
appeal this ruling." 

Barnow said he felt the judge's rulings were fair. 

"I think she ran the trial with great expertise," he said of Berkenkotter. 

In the meantime, the city has taken immediate possession of the access.
Should the city decide not to appeal the case or lose the appeal, it will
buy the access from Barnow for the $259,900. 

"The city felt that it was necessary because of the immediate safety
concerns," Huntley said. "If we are unable to prevail in an appeal or choose
not to appeal, the city will purchase that agreement at that cost."

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