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Prime Gary airport tenant sues airport authority, private operator over quadrupled rent


GARY, Indiana — A tenant at the Gary/Chicago International Airport is suing the airport authority and its private operator, alleging that they "unilaterally" quadrupled its rent.

The Gary Jet Center's federal lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the airport authority's attempts to levy a 1.5 percent fee on tenants' gross revenues at the airport. Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis says the authority's actions are "harassment."

"It's just unconscionable to think you can go and change someone's lease because you need more money," he said.

Gary Airport Director Dan Vicari told The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1Vfza6d ) he cannot comment on the pending litigation.

Gary Jet Center, which has three hangars and a passenger lounge at the Gary airport, is one of two fixed-base operators at that complex. Its suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond contends that the airport authority and airport operator AvPorts cannot violate the company's 2007 lease.

That lease has the company paying rent for its hangars at a rate of 50 cents per square foot and an additional fee of 10 percent of all revenues collected for the airport. The lease expires in 2046.

The suit contends that if AvPorts' actions against Gary Jet Center are left unchecked, no reasonable business would undertake any large project at the airport.

Davis said AvPorts and Aviation Facilities Company Inc. have failed to bring any development to the airport near Lake Michigan in their first 21 months of operation there. He contends they are now looking to increase fees on existing tenants.

"They make more money if they get more money from me and it doesn't go to the airport, it goes to AvPorts," he said.

AvPorts signed a 10-year agreement to manage the airport in January 2014. Its parent company, Aviation Facilities Company Inc., signed a 40-year agreement to become the airport's exclusive developer.

Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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