Trial Ends in Lawsuit Pitting Suburbs Against Denver Airport

AUGUST 27, 1999

Denver should have to reduce jet noise at Denver International Airport or be forced to pay millions of dollars for violating an agreement, an attorney argued Thursday. "This is a very simple case," said attorney Mark Davis in closing arguments Thursday in Jefferson County District Court. "It is enforcement of an agreement freely entered into by Denver."

The closing arguments ended four days of testimony in a suit brought by Adams County and the cities of Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, and Thornton against Denver. It was heard in a Jefferson County court to ensure impartiality.

The 1988 agreement establishing the noise limits allowed Denver to annex 53 square miles of Adams County land to build DIA. That agreement called for $500,000 "mitigation payment" for each noise violation.

Testimony was given that 12 violations occurred in DIA's second year of operation, which means Denver could have to pay up to $6 million. "It would be the preference of Adams County that the airport be brought into compliance," Davis said. "We don't want an order to close the airport, but perhaps something like a 10 percent decrease of operations a month until compliance is achieved. If not, Denver must pay the monetary standards."

Denver attorney Patricia Tisdale argued that there is no action the court can order that would improve compliance with the noise agreement. And, Tisdale said, the plaintiffs didn't prove any damages caused by the violations. "This case is not so simple," Tisdale said. "This contract has not changed the law. If a party suffers provable damages, they have the right to sue for compensation. If there are no damages, there is nothing to compensate." Tisdale said Denver changed flight patterns and operations procedures to reduce noise problems.

Jefferson County District Court Judge Jane Tidball took the matter under advisement rather make an immediate ruling from the bench. "No matter what I decide, it is probably going to be appealed," Tidball said. "I would like to get it right the first time."

Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News, Copyright Denver Publishing Co.