U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Controversy over Condemnation for FedEx Center

APRIL 3, 2002

Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) has the go-ahead to take the last piece of property it needs to expand after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a property condemnation dispute over the land.

The court decided Monday it would not hear an appeal by Kent Urbine of Old Oak Ridge Road. Urbine had argued his property was being taken to benefit a private company -- FedEx -- and not the public good, for which condemnations are allowed. The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case means a November decision by the N.C. Supreme Court against Urbine stands.

Urbine had argued the condemnation of his two acres promoted an unconstitutional relationship between FedEx and the state government, which has promised the company millions of dollars in tax breaks if it opens a cargo sorting center at PTI. The ruling is significant because Urbine's property is the final piece of land PTI needs to expand for FedEx.

Urbine's attorney, William Maready, declined comment, saying he had not received official word of the Supreme Court's decision. The decision not to hear the case is posted on the court's Web site.

The shipper wants to locate a cargo sorting center at the airport to serve the East Coast. PTI has received federal approval for the project although that approval is being appealed. PTI also has received federal funding to build a third runway that FedEx wants.

The hub has been one of the Triad's most controversial issues over the past few years. Supporters say it will bring jobs to an area that badly needs them. Opponents say the hub will wake people living near the airport with its overnight flights.

The attorney for PTI, Bruce Ashley, had not expected the Supreme Court to hear the case. "The U.S. Supreme Court takes very few cases in general," he said. "A government body going in and condemning a piece of property doesn't excite them, I don't think."

Urbine has run out of appeals. The only unresolved issue is how much the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority will pay for his land. It deposited $198,000 for the property with a state court in 1998 when it began the condemnation. Urbine can accept that payment or argue in state court that his land is worth more.

The debate over Urbine's land is separate from a federal court appeal by local residents' groups that contend federal authorities did not adequately review the environmental impacts of the hub. That appeal is expected to be heard later this year.

Source: News and Record (contact Paul Muschick at 883-4422, ext. 231, or pmuschick@news-record.com)