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Four Hangar Owners Suing Over Airport Lease Terms

Issue Date: November 29, 2018

Four persons who own hangars on land leased from the former Marinette-Menominee Regional Twin County Airport in Menominee have filed suit against Menominee County for what they say is an illegal attempt to unilaterally terminate their leases. Menominee County became sole owner of the airport when Marinette County withdrew from the joint ownership agreement in July of 2015.

The leases contain language stating that lease terms will be for 20 years, after which the agreement is either renewable for another 20-year period or renewable on a year-by-year lease agreement that could be terminated by either party at the end of 30 days.

They say that contrary to the lease language, Menominee County has issued a notice of termination to the hangar owners which would give Menominee County the right to unilaterally determine the lease renewal period.

In a suit filed Monday, Nov. 5 in Menominee County Circuit Court, the hangar owners ask for a declaratory judgment that determines their rights to renew the leases, stops Menominee County from terminating the leases at the end of the current lease period, allows the hangar owners to elect either renewal period contained in the leases, and provides "such other and further relief as is consistent with equity and good conscience."

Plaintiffs in the case are lease holders Wayne Beyer of Menominee, Mich.; Mark Burbey, Wallace, Mich.; Aaron Tuinstra, Marinette, and Merlin Zelm, Menominee, all represented by Atty. Kim Coggins of Coggins Law in Marinette.

The suit notes that the airport located at 2801 22nd Street in Menominee was at one time owned by Marinette and Menominee counties and operated by a joint airport commission comprised of Marinette County, Wisconsin and Menominee County, Michigan. The joint airport commission leased real property at the airport to local pilots on which their hangars were located.

When the joint airport venture was dissolved several years ago Marinette County relinquished its share of ownership in the airport. Menominee County became sole owner and has been operating it ever since.

The defendant authorized the leases, collected rents and recognized the validity of the leases, the suit states. It adds that both parties treated the leases as valid, binding and enforceable.

When Marinette County withdrew from the airport as a sponsor Menominee County advised pilots that new leases would be required. The plaintiffs maintained that their existing leases were valid. The suit states that ultimately Menominee County conceded that the existing leases were valid but maintained that they were not the subject of any extended lease periods upon expiration of the initial lease term.

The suit quotes lease language contrary to this, and states that the language in their notices of termination is at odds with language in the leases that were drafted by the defendant's own agents, and also contrary to applicable law that governs lease options.

In a September 10 letter from Menominee county Board of Commissioners Beyer was informed that his current lease expires in July of 2027, and the county has decided to terminate the lease at that time. The letter states that new leases will at most contain a 10-year lease term with a 10-year non-automatic renewal option. "Any current leases in effect that have terms beyond the Board's new guidelines will be terminated pursuant to the dual-party optional termination provisions found in the lease.


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