Missouri City Studies Legal Options to Fight Airport Expansion

JUNE 30, 1997

The St. Louis Business Journal (Vol 17; No 42; page 5A) reports that the St. Charles (Missouri) City Council is considering its legal options in opposing expansion plans for Lambert St. Louis International Airport. Council members are worried that the W-1W expansion plan which has been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval will send more low-flying planes over St. Charles. Although the council appears to be preparing for a legal battle, council members said they also are keeping lines of communication open and trying to reach an agreement on noise abatement with airport authorities.

According to the article, the council invited several airport planning and noise experts to a public council meeting June 24, after which council members held a closed-door executive session to discuss legal issues with Steven Flaum, an attorney with the Chicago firm of McDermott, Will & Emery who specializes in representing municipalities in airport noise disputes. Rose Kasper, a City Councillor who helped launch a citizen's group opposed to current expansion plans because of noise concerns, said the council wanted to discuss all of its legal options, but would like to settle the problem without going to court.

The article went on to say that Kasper said the council's next step will be to send a letter to St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon, requesting permission to make a presentation to him on the studies of the experts who addressed the council. One of the experts, the article reports, was Geoffrey Gosling, a professor at the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley. According to City Councillor Rory Riddler, Gosling questioned many of the assumptions that went into choosing W-1W over other expansion proposals.

One criticism Gosling made, for example, was that the W-1W plan was evaluated on the assumption that no new terminal would have to be built, but according to his analysis of data supplied by the planners, a new terminal eventually would have to be built even under the W-1W plan, according to Riddler. In addition, Riddler said, Gosling argued that planners should not have dismissed the idea of sharing future traffic with Mid-America Airport. Riddler added that the council is angry that the airport authority is not willing to negotiate over noise, and that many other airports have noise abatement agreements.

Meanwhile, the article reports, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue a final environmental impact study on W-1W within 30 days. Gentry Trotter, a spokesperson for the airport's public relations firm, said airport officials are "confident the FAA will render a favorable decision" on W-1W. In addition, Col. Leonard Griggs Jr., director of Lambert, said in a prepared statement, "The St. Louis Airport Authority has never proposed signing an individual noise agreement with any community in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Furthermore, Congress in 1990 passed legislation that prohibits us from restricting airline/aircraft operations."