The sky will not be falling in the Village of Beiseker – at least not yet – after the local council suddenly reversed course and dropped a previously proposed 240 per cent annual rent increase to tenants of the Beiseker Airport during a Feb. 13 meeting.
Mayor Warren Wise said the decision to drop the rate increase came at the advice of the Village’s attorney after reviewing a letter sent by the lawyer representing 10 tenants at the Beiseker Airport, who called the rent increase “illegal” based on the market value clause within the current lease.
The clause states: “the parties agree that the annual rent shall be adjusted yearly to reflect a market rate of similar leases.”
Statistics produced by a group of 10 current tenants at the airport opposed to the proposed annual rent increase from $620 to $1,500 showed that Beiseker Airport lease rates were already above the average for airports of similar size and service levels across Alberta, which is about $393 per year.
“They (the Village’s CAO and our attorney) found that within the lease agreement, it was probably not justified,” Wise said. “So we decided just to go back to the previous lease amount, which was $620 per year.”
The Village confirmed it would reimburse any tenants who had already paid their $1,500 for 2023.
Harv Wregget, one of the 10 tenants who hired a lawyer to challenge the rate increase, applauded council’s decision to return to the 2022 lease levels. But he also indicated the group may yet go further in its challenge to bring that annual lease rate down even more.
“Of course all members of our group that disputed the unreasonable rent increase are delighted with council's decision,” Wregget said in an emailed statement to the Rocky View Weekly after the Feb. 13 meeting. “We will decide later whether to challenge the lot rent in future in order to bring it down to the market rate of similar leases. That is the terms of the lease agreement, which all lot holders signed with the Village of Beiseker.”
In some ways, Wise felt, the legal wrangling over the lease rate clarifies the whole airport issue for council, whose members have been struggling to make some kind of management agreement with tenants out at the Beiseker Airport for much of the past two years.
Tenants represented by what is known as the Beiseker Airport Association were originally supposed to come forth with some sort of self-management proposal last summer. That was extended until the end of December, and now has been extended once again until March 31.
Wise felt the latest dispute over the airport, and the ongoing in-fighting among airport tenants over the future of the Village-owned facility, will likely mean there would be no more deadlines after March 31. Afterwards, he said he and his fellow councillors would probably be making a unilateral decision on the airport’s future.
“We have set these deadlines for the past two years now and we keep extending them,” he said. “For a little while, things looked very promising. Quite frankly, I think they don’t look near so promising now.
“We are tired of it. I am tired of it. And I would like to see it resolved one way or the other so we can just move on.”
When asked if council would potentially be open to another extension after March 31 if tenants can’t come together by then, Wise said it would have to be a collective decision among his councillors. However, he was not optimistic tenants at the airport would be able to put aside their differences long enough to present a cohesive management proposal for council to consider.
“I would rather not see it extended any more,” Wise bluntly stated. “Not only have we extended it (twice already), but there has been a change in personnel (negotiating on behalf of the airport). It just doesn’t seem to be very cohesive. We have in-fighting going on, and quite frankly I don’t see it being resolved.”