Hangar 17 includes both the smaller building with the red awning and the larger two-storey building on the right of the photo. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Hangar 17 includes both the smaller building with the red awning and the larger two-storey building on the right of the photo. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Township claims Langley airport tenant let youth group use hangar as clubhouse

A legal battle has erupted over a cancelled hangar lease at Langley Regional Airport

A legal battle between Langley Township and a Langley Airport tenant includes accusations of an illegal suite, harassment, and teens riding Segways onto active runways.

Companies controlled by Howard Nielsen, including Airside Events, leased a hangar at the Langley Regional Airport from 2013 to this summer, when the Township changed the locks and started proceedings to terminate the lease.

Airside’s lawyers have filed a court petition attempting to stop the Township from ending the lease and seizing the site, which includes both an old hangar and a new one, which Airside received a permit for in 2017 and built in 2019.

Airside’s claim, filed on Sept. 23, says that it has been a model tenant, paying its lease on time and maintaining the site properly.

However, the Township’s response says that Airside allowed a youth group to sublet the space for years despite repeated complaints from airport management, that they operated an illegal residential suite in the hangar, and that Nielsen often failed to respond to Township requests for information or access to inspect the site.

READ MORE: $2.9 million judgment in Langley blueberry farm sabotage lawsuit

None of the claims by Airside or the Township have been proven in court.

According to Airside’s petition, in late 2013 Nielsen and his wife were looking for a place to store a small aircraft that Neilsen and his family used recreationally. They leased the hangar in November of that year.

Around the same time, Nielsen was introduced to Youth Unlimited, a faith-based youth service and mission group that runs a number of programs for at-risk young people around the Lower Mainland.

By 2014, Nielsen had met with the Langley Chapter director, Daniel Ferguson, and since Nielsen was using only a portion of the hangar to store a single plane, allowed Youth Unlimited to use the front area and the hangar office for weekly youth events.

Nielsen’s petition claims that the airport management, including Guy Miller, who was the then-airport manager, were aware of the arrangement and approved of it at least verbally, comparing it to the Air Cadets program. Two Youth Unlimited employees worked out of the hangar office full-time, according to Nielsen’s petition.

Youth Unlimited would operate from the hangar from the fall of 2014 until Aug. 2020, when the Township changed the locks and repossessed the site.

“Between 2014 and the termination of the lease, no one on behalf of the Township ever told [Youth Unlimited’s] Ferguson that the Youth Unlimited operation at the old Hangar was unlawful or illegal, or asked them to vacate the premises,” the petition says.

Airside acknowledged that there was a residential suite built into the old hangar by a previous tenant, and that it had been occupied for about 10 months on one occasion, but contends that the airport’s zoning allows for residential uses.

The Township’s response has a very different version of events, saying Airside was only allowed to use the site for aircraft repair, overhaul, and storage under the terms of the lease.

“The Township had serious concerns with Youth Unlimited’s use of the premises,” the Township’s legal response says.

“Not only was this a clear breach of the lease, but there were significant safety concerns associated with having a youth group operating out of such an active and busy airport.”

Airport management spoke to Nielsen about relocating Youth Unlimited multiple times over the years, and each time were assured that the situation was temporary and that Youth Unlimited was looking for a new location.

The Youth Unlimited activities sometimes caused safety issues at the airport, the Township alleges.

The most serious of these incidents took place on July 17, 2019 when several other airport tenants reported that teens were riding Segways in restricted areas, including riding them across an active runway.

There were also multiple large gatherings that affected internal airport traffic and three times, Youth Unlimited Staff and teens worked on art projects in restricted airport zones, according to the Township.

In addition, the Township claims that on three separate occasions, in 2016, 2018, and when the site was seized in 2020, it was discovered that tenants were living in the hangar’s suite illegally.

The Township also alleges there was an unapproved sub-lease to the Langley Flying Club starting in June 2020.

Finally, the Township claims that Nielsen “engaged in a campaign of harassment” against current airport manager Carol Madill, who took over the job in 2018, making baseless claims and repeatedly suggesting she be fired.

After a lengthy back and forth between Nielsen and Township lawyers and staff throughout August, the Township took possession of the site on Aug. 29.

They then discovered two occupants and their cats were living in the suite, and had to give the couple access to remove their possessions.

An inspection of the hangar after it was seized turned up a washer, dryer, and industrial dishwasher, a large entertainment unit with TVs, a drum set, a games room with a pool table, and several boxes of new plastic event chairs, which the Township says suggest the site had been modified into an illegal event space.

Airside is arguing that most alleged breaches of the lease have ceased, as Youth Unlimited, the Langley Flying Club, and the suite tenants are all gone.

It argues that ending the lease would cause substantial financial harm, largely because of the loss of over $2 million invested into the site, including $1.5 million spent on improvements.

The Township noted that the value of the new hangar was listed as $250,000 when it permits were issued three years ago.

It also says the relationship between Airside and the Township is “irreparably damaged.”

“The Township does not believe that Mr. Nielsen or Airside intends to use the premises for lawful uses going forward,” the Township’s response to Airside says.

A hearing was scheduled for Vancouver Supreme Court on Friday, Nov. 13.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The lease on Hangar 17 at Langley Regional Airport is being disputed in court, as the Township tries to end it and the tenant tries to hold on. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

The lease on Hangar 17 at Langley Regional Airport is being disputed in court, as the Township tries to end it and the tenant tries to hold on. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

Someone bought a lottery ticket worth $4.2 million in Aldergrove (file)
Lottery ticket worth $4.2 million purchased in Aldergrove

Lotto 6/49 numbers were drawn Saturday

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Dale Nordal photographed a frosty scene in late 2020. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Frosty vista of Mount Baker by Langley City man

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

On Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, the Township approved a rainbow crosswalk between the school district and RCMP buildings in Murrayville, but did not earmark funds for the project. (Langley Advance Times file)
Out On Patrol police group backs rainbow crosswalk in Langley

Urges supporters to donate to cover cost of $12,000 crossing near main RCMP detachment

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read