The meeting was called to order at 2:01 PM by President Gary. Present were: Craig Cowles, Gail Hill, Gary Van Horn, Alan Wright, Herb Jolliff, Dave Martin, John Horn, Robert English and Kelly Wilson. There were many neighbors in attendance. Attorney Sean Armstrong arrived later.
Gary asked that any member wishing to speak should raise his voice enough for everyone to hear.
SECRETARY: The minutes from the previous meeting have been posted on the web site in time for everyone to read them. There were no corrections from the Board, and Gary pronounced the previous minutes as approved.
TREASURER: Gail gave the most recent bank balance including a liability of zero since all current bills have been paid. There were no questions for Gail.
MAINTENANCE: Gary set the tone by stating that there would be a long-range plan for taxiway maintenance coming soon. Craig Cowles then introduced himself and gave a thumbnail of his primary duties as well as acknowledging the help he gets from Lynn McDonald in those duties. He also thanked Gail Hill for prompt reimbursement of expenses, and John Horn for his assistance in maintaining the asphalt on the taxiways.
ARCHITECTURE: Dave thanked the members of the Architectural Committee and summarized the projects that were evaluated and approved during the year, specifically the Ullman and Plymate hangars.
PRESIDENT'S REPORT: Gary started by thanking the Block Heralds for helping the flow of information between the various streets by the email chain. There were thanks from the neighbors at this point for the tireless work that the Board has put in during the year.
There was a brief recess at 2:10 PM while we waited for the guest attorney to show up. When he did not, Gary called the meeting back to order at 2:16 PM. Aero Larson was asked to be available to assist during the presentation, and he agreed.
PANEL DISCUSSION: Gary gave a brief history of the efforts the Board has made to enlighten the Airpark neighbors about the FAA rules and regulations, including the videos posted through YouTube as well as letters sent after attorney's advice for specific cases. The notes that Gary made for his presentation are reproduced below:
HISTORY: The IAHA Board and the North Airpark Board have been concerned about protecting our Access for some time and the initial effort was educational in nature; videos on the IAHA Website are there because of this effort.
The process followed by the IAHA Board when someone has expressed concerns about an issue is to have them appear before the Board and explain their concerns and reasons therefore or to provide a written letter of concern for the Board to review and discuss.
Following that, informal discussions have taken place and if that wasn’t successful then a letter from the Board was forwarded.
When that didn’t solve the situation then a letter from the Attorney followed and in the past that has provided resolution.
We now have a situation – with which the Board has been involved for over a year now – where letters of concern have been received from a number of individuals about one specific situation; there have been two Board meetings where the specifics were discussed by both sides of the issue and promises were made. There have been subsequent Executive Sessions of the Board, including additional conversations with the parties involved and it was clear that outside assistance was going to be needed.
There have been conferences on behalf of the Board with Counsel and legal advice was requested. What we know as a result of the process is that the only tool we have at our disposal as an organization is to pursue the matter by litigation – an approach that would be expensive, stressful and probably divisive for the community. An alternative approach was initiated, however, to see if resolution could be achieved.
The result of the alternative approach was to schedule meetings with Counsel and the primary parties involved in the dispute and that has not provided resolution as of today.
The choices available to the Board, after wrangling with this issue for nearly 15 months now are to: A) implement litigation by requesting a vote requiring 70% approval from Association members voting which would also have to include a special assessment to fund the litigation at an estimated cost of $625 per lot [which the Board is viewing as impractical at this time due to potential cost and time involved]; or B) establish a more considered path for dispute resolution within the CC&R’s or Bylaws which would (hopefully) be more affordable and productive in the long run for everyone involved.
TODAY’S CONVERSATION: We have assembled a Panel of Board Members and our Attorney and the purpose of this part of today’s meeting is to map out where we want to go from here. Only three responses received from the Membership to our request for input, and we’d like to have more thoughts to help guide us if we might. The input from members suggested mediation and arbitration as tools which might enhance the existing process and those thoughts are consistent with advice from Counsel.
Mediation is a lower level of dispute resolution where an individual or panel of individuals is selected and the focus is reaching mutual agreement between the parties involved on an effective resolution for an issue. This can be formal or informal in nature and cost can vary.
Arbitration is a more formal approach where the parties involved present their cases to either a selected individual or panel of individuals and agree to accept the decision handed down. The parties will share the costs and may present the case themselves or be represented by an attorney. An Arbitration decision is binding on the parties.
To summarize, Gary said that the Board was at the point where developing a new plan of action was necessary to form a mediation panel for specific problems. CC&Rs and ByLaws modifications can come later, but in the short term mediation is a much better alternative to potential costly and divisive lawsuits.
John Horn then spoke, posing then answering the question regarding what activities could or could not be performed in private hangars here on the airport. Restrictions on private activities have always been a part of FAA agreements, including the most recent one, and the FAA is no friend of through-the-fence residential airparks. Expanding on this point, he further explained that no activities can be permitted in a private hangar that might compete with a legitimate business in a commercial hangar.
Dave Martin spoke next, relating the prohibitions on certain activities in the CC&Rs including flight instruction and sight-seeing tours out of a private hangar. All that needs to happen in these instances is to move the business to the commercial hangars. Hangar rental is also prohibited on the residential side, especially since there are rentable hangars on the commercial side. He also mentioned the videos available on the YouTube web site (links on the IAHA main web page) and that many questions were answered in those videos.
Gary spoke again, reaffirming the commercial prohibitions, and said if anyone wanted a copy of the exact wording then he could send it to them by email. He went on to say that the hiring of an attorney for the current dilemma before the Board was necessary since a legal mediation requires a permit, and this particular attorney has such a permit. Gary stated also that the Board wanted to do the job right the first time, and hiring a professional assists the Board in doing the job right.
Gail Hill then spoke, saying that the FAA would love to have written proof that this Airpark cannot manage its own affairs, and mediation and arbitration will not trigger this kind of unwanted attention. Arbitration by the IAHA Board of any problem that might otherwise result in a lawsuit is a step forward, keeping the community out of any real danger of loss of airport access.
Dave spoke again, explaining that mediation is relatively cost-free though an arbitration board is different, and arbitration board members will need to be paid for their time. The decision of an arbitration panel is easily converted to a legal opinion since both parties agree in advance to be bound by the decision reached.
During the audience question and answer period, a question came up about the discussion this afternoon was about a specific case or if it was a policy change. Gary's answer was that this was fundamentally a policy change that was triggered by a specific case. Further clearing up any confusion, Gary continued by saying that the only thing being asked of the community today was to ask for names of people who would want to be involved in a mediation panel to be formed in 2015.
Gail spoke again, answering a specific question she had about how much money the Board had spent on attorneys in the last ten years, and she gave that amount. John then spoke again, saying that some of the figure that Gail mentioned included the amount spent in 2004 getting the new access agreement ironed out.
At this point, Attorney Sean Armstrong arrived. While he was getting ready to speak, Dave Martin clarified about that the existing ByLaws called for getting 70 percent of voting community members to approve a lawsuit should any issue come to that.
Sean Armstrong gave a thumbnail history of his involvement with the IAHA Board, and a general outline of what could happen if litigation were ever pursued. He also explained that the ODA and the FAA have complaint processes in place, both informal and formal, and any sanctions resulting from this complaint process would result in pulling the access to the Airport since that is the easiest way for them to handle the problem from their perspective. He then described the "discovery process," which would include requesting of bank records and subpoenaing other documents that might pertain to the case at hand, and the timetable for such a process. All of this was to explain the reason for the large amount of money typically spent in litigation.
The better alternative, as Sean then explained, is to mediate or arbitrate. Sean explained the difference between mediation and arbitration from his perspective, saying that he prefers mediation by far since it has a calming effect on both parties involved in the dispute. It also helps to have a mediation committee made up of actual airpark neighbors since they will have proper background for deciding a local problem.
A question was raised at this point about whether a mediator should or should not have any previous knowledge since it could represent a potential conflict of interest. Sean explained his perspective on this, saying that the benefits of experience and previous knowledge of the parties involved outweigh the potential problems with bringing an outsider up to speed regarding the parties involved in the disagreement. Biases in mediation can be neutralized by picking one member of the committee of three as being a representative for a position when a specific problem is being addressed, and all parties agree to narrow their focus to only one issue.
Arbitration, he went on to say, is more like an actual trial since both parties prepare a presentation, and they both agree beforehand to abide by the outcome. Mediators are from the community and arbitrators come from outside, usually retired judges or others formerly involved in legal work. There were questions from the audience at this point, clarifying specific points about the impact and standing of arbitration in Oregon courts. The point was also raised that this could be a blueprint for other residential airparks.
There was a question about whether the rules were enough already, and Sean answered by saying that the existing rules are enough in themselves to govern conduct, but what is necessary is a step between having the rule and then going to litigation if someone violates them. Having a mediation step in place allows for greater enforcement flexibility for the existing rules. Gary spoke at this point, further explaining that mediation and arbitration are tools that the Board needs to enforce its own rules.
The timetable for forming this mediation committee is to field membership applications between now and late January of 2015, then evaluate all of them at the January meeting. Emails can be sent to the secretary Robert English by email (using the link already provided on the IAHA web site).
Alan Wright spoke up next, describing the process he went through to secure the current agreement established in 2004 and thanking the lawyers who were part of the team. He also praised the current leadership of the ODA, saying that we have had worse management in place for that organization and it is best to be thankful for a relatively benevolent relationship.
A motion was put forward during membership discussion, regarding the formation of a mediation sub-committee, and a straw vote was overwhelmingly in favor of it.
ELECTION RESULTS: all current board members have been re-elected to another term. There is a three-way tie between the three members running for Maintenance Chair, and that will be resolved at the January meeting.
ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned at 3:53 PM. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 29 of 2015, 7 PM, at the EAA hangar. Respectfully submitted by Robert English, secretary.