Middletown files civil complaint, eviction notice against Start Skydiving

Middletown officials filed a complaint and a notice to evict Start Skydiving from part of its space at Middletown Regional Airport last week.

In a civil complaint filed Thursday, the city is asking to the court to evict Start from hangar space used by the airport manager and fixed based operator, a role Start once served. The city took over those roles from Start in 2020, so it is asking Start to leave that space. The business has space in another hangar at the airport.

The complaint also asks the court to rule that Middletown has not breached its lease with Start, that it is not required to add hangar space for the business until Start officials make concessions including that they will stay at the airport and accept a new skydiving drop zone and that Start should have to pay rent for space it is using outside of its leased space.

The relationship between the city and Start Skydiving has already resulted in a civil rights lawsuit filed Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

Start included the lease issues in a breach of contract claim for the hangar located at 1711 Run Way and civil rights violations it alleged in the federal suit. The city said it would be moving to dismiss the breach of contract claim in the federal lawsuit.

In addition to the civil complaint filed Jan. 7, the city has notified Start’s attorney that Start was being evicted from Hangar 1707 that houses the FBO and airport manager spaces and that they were to vacate the hangar by Jan. 21.

The city’s attorneys, Brodi Conover and Scott Phillips, said Start Skydiving was given access to the space when it served as the airport manager and the fixed-base operator. However, Start has not served in either capacity for more than a year, they said.

The notice said the city agreed to allow Start Skydiving to remain there as productive conversations happened between Start Skydiving and the city toward resolution of real estate and operational issues among them.

The notice said City Council decided seven months ago to relocate the drop zones and Start’s recent lawsuit has made it clear that Start Skydiving is no longer interested in seeking an amicable resolution to the various other disputes.

“The city’s new suit seeks to distract from its effort to drive Start out of the airport and to distract from the city’s breach of the 2009 lease, an issue which is already separately pending in federal court following Start’s lawsuit last month,” John Hart II, who co-owns the family skydiving business.

Hart II said the lease required the city to provide Start with an “additional 10,000 square feet” of “hangar space to be constructed by the city.” He said it is undisputed that the city has never constructed that space.

Hart II said the new suit does not accuse Start Skydiving of breach but asks the court to declare lease terms in the city’s favor.

“The city’s improper escalation of litigation into another court will only take further funds and attention away from where they should be devoted in Middletown,” he said.

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