Airport owner explains hangar plans
Last updated 7/19/2022 at Noon
Plans for the airplane hangars at Sisters Eagle Airport and a document filed with Deschutes County sparked a round of rumors in Sisters Country last week. The way the document was worded created the impression that 100 new condominium hangars would be built at the local facility.
Airport owners Benny and Julie Benson told The Nugget that this is not what is planned.
“We are not proposing to build 100 condominium hangars,” Julie Benson wrote in a letter responding to a query from The Nugget. “This was misleading fake information put out on social media by persistent opponents of the airport, with the intent to incite a flurry of opposition against any development at the airport.
“We are offering the option for the 10 existing hangar renters to purchase their hangar unit. In order for buyers to get financing, banks require ‘condo-izing’ the hangars under a shared roof and walls, and a land lease declaration, similar to what condos are. This enables individual ownership of the units, with a ground lease from the Sisters Airport.”
Currently, there are 10 airplane hangars owned by the airport and leased to pilots. In May 2022, Sisters Airport Property, LLC filed a ground lease between them as landlord and SAP Hangars Condominium (tenant) to allow SAP to develop, lease, maintain, and use as a leasehold condominium, the 10 existing hangars.
By filing with the state to become a condominium, the pilots can purchase an individual unit. The ground under the hangars belongs to, and is being leased from, Sisters Airport Properties, LLC by SAP Condominium. As an example, a pilot pays $10,000 for a hangar space in the 10-unit condo. He will then have an additional monthly lease payment of, say, $100 that goes toward the infrastructure and utilities expenses in the common area of the airport (the landlord). Benny Benson indicated that many pilots would prefer to own their hangar. The 10 existing hangars will be available for purchase.
In the original master plan for the airport approved by the City in 2014, there was approval for 48 hangars – 30 regular, 10 executive, three replacement hangars, four pilot overnight accommodation/hangars, and one pilot lounge hangar. Currently, there are the 10 regular hangars that constitute the SAP Hangars Condominium Project. If more hangars are built and sold, they will become part of the condo project and pay a monthly ground lease fee.
The wording in the ground lease says that the leasehold condominiums will be done in stages, and “may contain up to 100 units.” When a condo project is submitted to the state, a total number of maximum units must be stated. They don’t all have to be built, but once the number is recorded, it can never be increased. For a property owner, it is better to overstate the proposed number than to understate it. If in the future, SAP Condominium Project decided they wanted more than 48 units, they would have to go back to the City and apply for an amendment to the original master plan.
The Bensons’ attorney, Michelle DaRosa, explained that a condominium, whether residential, commercial, hangars, storage spaces, or anything else, is simply a legal construct in which multiple owners each own their own space (unit) and share the building and land. In the case of the airport, the airport owns the land, and the condo owners pay a monthly ground lease fee.
Benny Benson said the airport would like to begin building and providing some of the other approved projects listed in the master plan, like the four pilot accommodations/ hangars. By selling the 10 existing hangars, some capital would be available for such projects.
There is currently a waiting list for hangars. Benson is hopeful they might be able to begin some building next summer.
“I’m not a developer,” said Benson. “I’m an engineer. My bigger goal is to build an office building for my engineering company and other businesses.”
In her letter to The Nugget, Julie Benson expressed frustration toward critics of Sisters Eagle Airport’s activities and appreciation for community support.
“The attendance at our July 4 Rumble on the Runway Celebration was evidence of extraordinary level of community support for what we are doing in aviation,” she wrote. “Our pilot training program at the Sisters High School is the most successful and biggest aviation program at a public school in the country, enabling students to earn their pilot certificate and college credit toward a degree in aviation while in high school. This is made possible by the commitment of the Sisters School District and flight science teacher, and by the collaboration with Outlaw Aviation for simulator and in-flight training at the Sisters Airport.
“But mostly the success of this innovative program is due to the generous support from the Sisters community. The funds we raised at the July 4 event will provide several flight scholarships to SHS students. We recognize how unique this type of enthusiastic support is in today’s negative world, and we are extremely grateful to the Sisters community, many local volunteers, and our adamant defenders on social media.
“The future of air travel is dependent on the availability of well-trained pilots. We are proud to do our part in supporting this program and general aviation. We would like to invite those that choose to be persistent opponents of everything at the Sisters Airport to come with us on a scenic flight or a flight lesson with a SHS student pilot, and experience the wonder of flight in the real world, rather than wasting time on the computer looking for ways to tear down and discredit.”