Spokane-based RMA Inc., doing business as Spokane Airways, has sued Spokane International Airport (SIA) and the Spokane Airport Board for alleged violations of lease agreements, which it claims have destroyed its ability to operate as a full-service fixed-base operator.
The suit, filed in Spokane County Superior Court on April 12, accuses SIA and its seven-member governing body of forcing Spokane Airways to vacate six of the nine buildings it occupied at the east end of the airport without paying for the company to relocate or providing replacement buildings, as required under Spokane Airways long-term leases for those buildings.
The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a longstanding battle between SIA and Spokane Airways, the airports oldest and largest provider of refueling and other general aviation services. The Federal Aviation Administration is requiring SIA to demolish the six buildings that Spokane Airways had occupied to allow sufficient lines of sight from a new $26 million air traffic control tower along Electric Avenue thats expected to be completed by August.
Spokane Airways vacated the buildings in March and moved south to smaller quarters near Pilot Drive. The company, which was founded here in the 1920s and employs roughly 100 people, has said in the past it believed the airports actions could leave it without enough space for its operations.
In its lawsuit, Spokane Airways says it was told by SIA in 2000 that it would need to relocate due to several expansion projects the airport was planning.
The company says that as a result of the uncertainty caused by SIAs plans to relocate those buildings, a pending $4.2 million sale of 85 percent of Spokane Airways fixed-base operator business was prevented.
The parties agreed to move Spokane Airways to a site at the west end of Pilot Drive, just south of the six buildings, then couldnt agree on the terms of a lease for a new building that an architect had designed.
After seeking proposals for commercial use of the site, SIA agreed in December to lease that land to XN Air LLC, the other fixed-based operator there.
In late October, Spokane Airways filed a $10 million claim with the Airport Board, which it said would cover the cost of replacing the six buildings, which have a combined total of 63,000 square feet of space.
Shortly thereafter, the Airport Board filed a condemnation petition in Spokane County Superior Court against Spokane Airways to acquire the companys leases of those buildings through eminent domain.
Kevin Roberts, an attorney at Spokane-based Dunn & Black PS who is representing the Airport Board in the condemnation action, asserts that Spokane Airways lawsuit is in retaliation against SIA for condemning the buildings. He says Spokane Airways forced the airport to condemn the buildings because it was delaying the airports demolition of the buildings as required by the FAA.
This new lawsuit is an attempt to end-around the condemnation action that the airport was forced to file by Spokane Airways to move the project forward, Roberts says. It really comes back to a safety issue.
Roberts says SIA plans to proceed with determining a just compensation to Spokane Airways for the buildings.
The Airport Board has all along told Spokane Airways that this project was coming, and wanted to work with Spokane Airways any way they could, Roberts says. The airport has done everything by the book and has treated Spokane Airways in a fair manner.
Robert Dunn, an attorney at Dunn & Black who also is representing SIA, says the airport plans to move to dismiss the lawsuit soon.
A status conference in the case is scheduled for May 11.
In the lawsuit, Spokane Airways says SIA acknowledged its obligations under the long-term lease agreements to relocate the companys operations at its expense, even during the condemnation action. Then, the Airport Board first denied its obligation in March, when it said it wouldnt pay for a replacement facility or any improvements for Spokane Airways, the companys lawsuit says.
Its refusal to pay for replacement facilities and its planned destruction of the six buildings has made it impossible for RMA to plan its business, obtain financing or sale of its business value, and conduct its business as a full service FBO, the lawsuit says.
Meanwhile, last August SIA demolished another building that Spokane Airways had leased, without paying just compensation for the seven years remaining on the lease or fair market value for the building, the lawsuit says. In addition, on several occasions, including last month, SIA has demanded that Spokane Airways enter into a new lease for another building the company occupies, or face eviction, the lawsuit says.
In its lawsuit, Spokane Airways asks the court for a judicial declaration stating that SIA is required to relocate or provide replacement buildings for the six buildings.
It also asks the court to declare that Spokane Airways has the right to possess the seventh building under its current lease, rather than negotiating a new one.
Spokane Airways alleges that the airports actions constitute a breach of contract as well as a breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and that it has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial. Further, it asserts that the airports demolition of the building last August without compensating Spokane Airways constitutes an inverse condemnation and a violation of Washington states constitution. It claims the airport owes Spokane Airways just compensation for that building.
Contact Emily Brandler at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE