Neighbor County Files Suit Against Denver Airport over Noise

MARCH 14, 2001

Adams County filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Denver, alleging that planes from Denver International Airport violated the county's noise pact at least 24 times in 1996 and 1997.

Denver is liable for $12 million in noise-penalty payments to Adams County, according to the lawsuit filed in Jefferson County District Court. It covers DIA's second and third years of operation, from February 1996 to February 1998.

"It's totally frustrating; we do not like to have to do this," said Adams County Commissioner Elaine Valente. "But we cannot let it go. We have an obligation to our citizens." Attorneys for Denver could not be reached for comment.

In 1999 Adams County District Court Judge Jane Tidball ruled that the Denver airport had violated the city's noise agreement with the county at least eight times in DIA's first year. Because the Adams-Denver pact called for aircraft noise penalties of $500,000 for each violation, Tidball's ruling meant the city owed Adams County $4 million for first-year noise. With interest, the penalty ballooned to $5.3 million.

Denver appealed the judge's ruling, and last month, the Colorado Court of Appeals heard the city's appeal.

The 1988 pact between Adams County and Denver set up a system that called for DIA to monitor aircraft at about 100 locations north, west and south of the airport. It also established a noise boundary around DIA that could lead to additional violations.

Adams County residents voted to support Denver's annexation of county land for the construction of the airport. They were promised less airplane noise from DIA than they suffered from Stapleton airport, Valente said.

Denver's agreement with Adams County gave the city time to reduce noise levels and escape penalties. But Tuesday's lawsuit said Denver "failed, neglected and refused to implement regulations to cure violations at DIA."

In January airlines began flying their noisiest planes away from heavily populated areas of Commerce City, Northglenn, and Thornton in Adams County. Instead, carriers used departure routes to the north and south out of DIA. Such a plan was "good news to us, but I'm not sure the folks in Elizabeth like that," Valente said.

Randall Marder of Elizabeth said aircraft noise in this community southeast of Denver has increased since the north and south departure routes were installed. "Denver's dumping its trash in our backyard," Marder said.

Source: Denver Post