Executive Air Taxi Gets City OK for Hangar Project Despite Opposition from Bismarck Aero Center

May 30, 2024

May 29—Bismarck city commissioners approved a request to increase the size of a future hangar expansion planned by a private air company at Bismarck Municipal Airport following an hourlong discussion on how it might impact a nearby business.

Commissioners on Tuesday night voted 4-0 to approve the request by Executive Air Taxi Corp., allowing the aviation company to build a 280-by-120-foot expansion to a hangar they own at the general aviation ramp of the airport. Mayor Mike Schmitz recused himself from the discussion due to an unstated conflict of interest.

Executive Air Taxi is one of two fixed base operations providing aeronautical services at the airport; Bismarck Aero Center is the other. FBOs typically provide services such as fueling, maintenance and storage of aircraft for general aviation purposes.

The request is an amendment of a development agreement between Executive Air and the city approved by commissioners in October 2022. In that agreement, Executive Air laid out a plan to demolish Hangar 38, which happened recently, and build a 260-by-120 foot expansion connected to Hangar 48C via a breezeway. The company owns both hangers.

The hangar expansion will be built over a parking lot in front of a building leased by Bismarck Aero Center for its office building. Bismarck Aero Center took over the lease of the building in 2008 and plans to occupy it until the lease ends in 2029. The building will then be demolished following the relocation of Bismarck Aero Center's offices to a new FBO building being built farther north on the general aviation ramp.

Bismarck Aero Center expressed concerns during Tuesday's meeting that Executive Air's expansion will reduce parking and building visibility, affecting facility access. John Simmers, who was representing the Aero Center, claimed the city has leased the same parcel of land — the parking lot — to both parties and that there are several conflicts of interest in the development agreements of the companies.

"I ask you to imagine that ... your city government provides a lease to you, and within months of your signature approves a separate process that displaces your parking and allows your direct competition to build on your parking lot," he said to commissioners.

Airport Director Greg Haug spoke in support of the expansion. Haug said the two companies have held meetings over the parking issues and access accommodations, coming to an agreement within three meetings, but would have to meet again to finalize the agreements.

Executive Air is required to replace the displaced parking on its own dime. Its development agreement plan shows that a new parking lot will be built between the hangar expansion and the existing footage road. Other temporary parking will be built in an opening between the new hangar and an existing hangar just to the north that will serve as the driveway for the Aero Center building. An additional lot will be built between the hangar just to the north and the frontage road.

Simmers pushed back on the idea that Bismarck Aero Center agreed to displace its whole parking lot. While the company did agree to move parking spaces, Simmers suggested it only agreed to move the driveway to its current parking lot rather than replace parking stalls. The current driveway giving Bismarck Aero Center access to a frontage road would also be covered by the new hangar, requiring it to be moved.

"Our agreement to alter and adjust the parking lot in 2022 was a good spirit to cooperate," he said. "But I'm here because we are losing our entire parking lot and visibility."

Commissioner Anne Cleary shared concerns with business visibility as well during the meeting. She was less worried about the added building dimensions, instead focusing on the timeline between when the hangar expansion would be built and when the Aero Center would move out of its current office building.

"That in-between period can do a lot for a business, and so I think that's what I'm struggling with," she said. "I just don't feel right about it."

Commission Greg Zenker, who holds the airport portfolio, said whether the commission approves or rejects the expansion would not affect the visibility and access issues.

"The only thing that's going to change is the length of the building, and one entity is making that adjustment so they can grow (the building) by a few more feet," he said.

Reach Zachary Weiand at 701-250-8264 or [email protected].


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