|AIRPORT NOISE LAW|
County Seeks to Prove Airport Noise Has Not Diminished Home Values
JULY 12, 2005
The county has requested all property records, including home repair and improvements worth more than $500, from the homeowners claiming Witham Field has damaged their property values. County attorneys requested the documents -— including all appraisals, property tax bills, income records, documents related to efforts to sell the homes, and home videos of the affected properties -— as they prepare to defend the county from the lawsuit claiming the airport has limited the worth of surrounding homes.
Gene Zweben, a Stuart attorney representing the homeowners, said most of the items are standard, but the plaintiffs intend to object to some of the county's requests, including the home videos and income tax records. "Some of it was very overboard," Zweben said.
Senior Assistant County Attorney David Acton said the requests are similar to what the homeowners have requested from the county. "They asked for lots of material from 1994 when we took over the airport from Grumman, so it's common at this phase," Acton said.
The county is being sued by 20 plaintiffs, representing 10 homes, who want compensation for an inability to sell their homes, hindered conversation and television viewing, and any health problems due to the noise, vibration and exhaust from jets.
A hearing on the merits of the case is set for Aug. 8. Another hearing, to determine whether the case can become a class-action lawsuit, is scheduled for October.
The property owners have notified the county they will refile nuisance and trespass complaints that Circuit Judge Robert Makemson dismissed on June 1. Makemson ruled the county was not properly notified before the lawsuit was filed.
JUNE 28, 2005
Circuit Judge Robert Makemson has denied Martin County's request to dismiss a complaint that the airport has damaged surrounding property values.
The ruling allows more than 20 plaintiffs, representing 10 homes, to continue their lawsuit seeking compensation for aircraft noise, vibration and exhaust they say has prevented them from selling their homes, hindered their conversations and television viewing, and created health problems.
A hearing on the merits of the case is set for Aug. 8. Another hearing, to determine if the case can become a class action lawsuit, is scheduled for October.
"It could still be dismissed," Senior Assistant County Attorney David Acton said.
Makemson on June 1 dismissed two other counts in the lawsuit because the county was not properly notified of the claims. Gene Zweben, an attorney for the residents, said they will refile the nuisance and trespass complaints, which require six months' notice to the county.
MARCH 8, 2005
A group of homeowners who sued the county last year in an attempt to recoup losses caused by jet noise and pollution have asked a judge to turn their lawsuit into a class action.
Gene Zweben, a Stuart attorney representing the plaintiffs, said he has already heard from several hundred people living around Witham Field who have expressed interest in joining the suit, and more than 5,000 people might be affected by the airport.
"If it isn't certified as a class action, we'll amend it to add in all the names," Zweben said.
The county has previously filed a motion to dismiss the case, and Senior Assistant County Attorney David Acton called last week's request a "formality."
Initially 11 property owners were included in the lawsuit when it was filed in June; the current paperwork contains 20 names.
Homeowners seeking damages would fall within one of three categories, each based upon the proximity of the home to the airport and runways, Zweben said. The plaintiffs want compensation for loss of property value; inability to sell their homes; adverse effects on conversation, TV watching and sleep; and any health problems because of the noise, vibration and exhaust from jet aircraft.
The county has targeted the 109 homes most affected by airport noise for buyout or insulation.