The tenant of a Langley Regional Airport hanger given the boot for multiple lease violations is appealing, and a judge has agreed to freeze the eviction until the case can be heard.
The case has involved claims of illicit subleases, a war of words with airport managers, and teens on Segways zipping across active runways.
On Monday, March 1, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Barbara Fisher agreed with lawyers for Airside Event Spaces that as long as the company keeps paying rent, the Township of Langley, which owns the airport, can’t lease out the space to someone else until the appeal is heard.
The back-and-forth court battle began in August, when airport management issued an eviction notice to Airside for Hangar 17, which it had occupied for seven years of a 14-year lease. Nielsen had leased the site after he took up flying.
However, according to the Township, the eviction was the culmination of a long and contentious relationship between airport management and Airside and its owner, Howard Nielsen.
During the original hearing before Milman, the Township claimed that Nielsen had subleased parts of the hangar to a Christian youth group from 2014 to 2020, another portion to a flying club in 2020, and had used a residential suite in the hangar as housing for multiple people at various times.
The youth group members sometimes drew complaints for using restricted areas, including crossing active flight areas on Segways on one occasion, the Township argued.
When the Township’s lawyers served a formal notice of the breaches in the lease agreement in June of last year, it set off a series of contentious emails from Nielsen, directing what Milman called “vitriol” at current airport manager Carol Madill.
Attempts by Township staff to do an inspection of the site were stymied for weeks as no one was on site to give them access to Hangar 17.
“The unmistakable impression one gets from reading them, and from Airside’s course of conduct generally, is that Airside was disdainful of airport management and of the Township’s rights under the lease,” Milman wrote in his December ruling.
Back in court seeking an appeal, Airside’s lawyers are arguing that the financial impact of ending the lease is too great. Airside claims it put about $2 million into renovations and upgrades to the hangar site over the years, which would be lost if the lease is cancelled.
Fisher found that there was enough substance to the appeal to justify putting a “stay of execution” on the eviction for now, meaning no one will occupy Hangar 17 for the time being.
“It is difficult to see merit in the overall appeal given many of the judge’s findings,” Fisher wrote in her decision to place a hold on the eviction. “However, I would not view the appeal as frivolous or having no chance of success.”
The main question for an appeal will be whether the judge put sufficient weight on the size of Airside’s investment in the hangar, versus any damage it caused the Township with its breaches of the lease, Fisher noted.
She also wrote that if the site is leased out to another user, it could cause “irreparable harm” to Airside because even if they won their appeal, they couldn’t override the new lease and reclaim access to the hangar.
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