Louisville Threatens Suit over Nearby Airport Expansion


JANUARY 21, 1999
LOUISVILLE, KY

The city of Louisville has threatened to sue Jefferson County Airport if it allows scheduled passenger flights at the airport, suggesting in a letter sent to the Jefferson County Commissioners on Tuesday that a class action suit costing millions may be possible if flights start and damage the city's quality of life.

On Jan. 5, the Jefferson County Commissioners lifted a moratorium on applications to bring scheduled passenger flights of less than 30 seats to the airport, raising the possibility that Texas entrepreneur John Andrews might again apply to bring his Centennial Express commuter airline to the runways overlooking Broomfield, Superior, Louisville and Westminster.

Louisville Mayor Tom Davidson said the letter is meant to make the commissioners think twice about approving the new service. "We hope it will get their attention," he said.

The letter, written by City Attorney Sam Light, said if Jefferson County Airport switched from allowing only private and chartered flights to allowing commercial passenger services, it "will cause substantial harm to the city of Louisville and its citizens" in the form of airplane noise.

Light wrote that case law shows that landowners suffering injuries as a result of airport operations are entitled to monetary compensation, and the city would pursue a class action lawsuit if noise and pollution from commercial flights warrant it.

City opposition to passenger service at the airport is strong and longstanding, Davidson said. Louisville, Westminster and Superior threatened a suit when the airport considered Andrews' application in 1995, then put a moratorium in place while the exact same situation with Andrews was resolved at Centennial Airport.

When a federal court ruled last year Centennial Airport could not keep Andrews' service out while accepting federal funding, the Centennial Airport board decided it could do without the money.

The Jefferson County Commissioners cited the need to keep federal funding as the reason for lifting the moratorium on commercial service applications.

"'They're obviously making the decision on the basis of money, and we want them to understand the ramifications of that decision - in terms of cost," Davidson said. "There are several cases where airports have lost millions in these kinds of suits. When you tally the amount of damages per household, it gets expensive."

In 1995, Andrews' interest in bringing Centennial Express to the Jefferson County Airport sparked a massive public outcry, and spawned the creation of Citizens for General Aviation to keep commercial flights out.

The opposition group -- which hired a professional lobbyist to help make its case -- drew hundreds of supporters who owned homes surrounding the airport, most of whom turned out at a series of contentious public hearings and held protests outside the Jefferson County administrative building.

Those activists would likely get behind a lawsuit if noisy commercial traffic started appearing in the skies over their homes, Davidson said.

"I'm pretty sure Louisville would not be alone," he said.

Source: Longmont Daily Times-Call
1998 Times-Call Publishing Co.