Airport access dispute remanded back to court

Thu, 09/07/2006 - 3:50pm
By: John Munford

A legal dispute over an agreement providing access from Falcon Field to a privately-owned adjacent parcel is heading back to court thanks to a ruling from the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Earlier this week, the court determined that Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher C. Edwards must consider whether the Peachtree City Airport Authority acted in good faith when considering the transfer of an access agreement from the current owner, Hunting Aircraft, to a third party that plans to purchase the property.

Edwards previously ruled that the airport was not required to consider the proposal in good faith, instead

The contract granted to Hunting Aircraft back in 1991 allows Hunting to have access to the airport’s runways and taxiways to run an aircraft maintenance operation. The contract requires Hunting’s rent to be based on the number of aircraft at the facility, and Hunting must pay five cents for every gallon of fuel delivered to the facility as a fee.

Currently the authority is the only entity at Falcon Field selling fuel, an enterprise that makes up the lion’s share of the authority’s income.

In its suit, Hunting claims that airport officials have unreasonably withheld such approval because the authority either wants to buy the property at a far lower price or renegotiate a contract with terms more favorable to the authority. The authority has denied that claim, instead arguing that it has the unilateral right under the contract to turn down any future assignment of the access agreement that currently exists for the Hunting building.

The “bad faith” allegation was not hashed out in an April hearing before Judge Edwards. Instead, Edwards only admitted the contract between the parties and related documents as evidence; this was in part due to Hunting’s request for the matter to be heard expeditiously, and Edwards agreed to allow Hunting to seek a speedy review of the decision from the Court of Appeals.

“A finder of fact would be authorized to find that denying consent to the proposed transaction on the basis that the Authority hoped to secure the property for itself or hoped to extract additional fees from Hunting constituted unreasonableness or failure to act in good faith,” Court of Appeals Judge G. Alan Blackburn wrote in its opinion.

The Court of Appeals ruling indicates that Edwards must take into account Hunting’s allegations that the authority is acting in bad faith.

When the authority decided to deny Hunting’s request, there was no explanation for doing so, Hunting has said in the lawsuit.

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