Documents raise legal questions about fate of Glenwood Municipal Airport
A two-decade-old letter penned by the daughter of the man who donated land to the city of Glenwood Springs for a municipal airport appears to confirm her father and family’s long-term intentions for the site.
The city’s recent Airport Property Scenario Planning Project report lays out three possible, future scenarios for the airport property, including continued use as an airport or some level of residential development.
One of those options, labeled a “residential village,” proposes new housing with no aviation on the airport property.
According to a research memo dated Jan. 28, 2003, but prepared previous to that date by local attorney David McConaughy, the city acquired 44.85 acres of land between 1936 and 1939. Today, that site houses much of the city’s airport.
One piece of that site included property from George Sumers, for a sales amount of $1.
The research memo stated that, “Although one dollar arguably constitutes consideration for the property, it clearly does not reflect the property’s fair market value.
“This strongly supports the argument that Mr. Sumers’ conveyance to the city was a dedication as opposed to a sale and, therefore, the city would be required to honor his intentions,” McConaughy wrote.
Sumers’ daughter, Barbara Sumers Lafferty, in a letter addressed “to whom it may concern” and believed to have been written in April 1997, stated, “This property was owned by my father and mother, George and Loretta Sumers, and was gifted to the community of Glenwood Springs for use as an airport.”
Around the time Lafferty’s letter arrived, the Glenwood Springs Airport was facing a possible closure for purposes of redevelopment, before a citywide vote ultimately kept it open.
“If people give land to the city for less than market value, with the intent that it be used for a specific purpose, then if the city decides to change that purpose, it should not get to keep the land,” McConaughy said in an interview Wednesday.
McConaughy made clear that he does not represent, in any capacity, the Sumers family or any respective heirs.
Lafferty, in her letter, stated, “It was further agreed that in the event that the property ceased to be used as an airport, that the property would revert back to the family.”
City Attorney Karl Hanlon disagrees with that assessment.
When asked if the land could be required to revert back to the family, Hanlon responded, “The short answer is there is no limitation of use or any reversionary interests in the various conveyances of property to the city that make up the airport.”
However, “The city charter will require an election before the city could sell the property.”
Any decision concerning the airport property appears a ways off, as the project, as of last week, was “only approximately halfway complete,” City Manager Debra Figueroa said in a previous interview.
Historical records show that, in March 1937, then Glenwood Springs City Councilor Alderman Woody introduced “a resolution pledging that the municipal airport of the city of Glenwood Springs will at all times be operated for the public’s benefit.”
The resolution was subsequently adopted.
“This resolution supports the notion that they were not acquiring it just as an investment property, but for governmental purposes and public benefit,” McConaughy said.
In the last sentence of her letter, Lafferty stated, “In the event that the community decides to cease operations of the airport, and to convert the use of this property for other purpose, I would like it to be known that my family and I intend to preserve the legacy as it was intended.”
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