Inverse Condemnation Action over Airport Noise in Kentucky

MAY 31, 2001

When Dennis and Barbara Solomon bought 17 1/2 acres in Hebron, Kentucky, some 13 years ago, they planned to develop it into upscale residential subdivision. But increased traffic and noise from the expanding Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport have rendered their land useless, they say.

So now the Solomons are demanding that the airport buy the property for $350,000 -- an eight-fold increase over the price they paid in 1988.

Today, after hearing 5 1/2 days of testimony over the past two weeks, a Boone County jury will begin deliberating to determine whether the airport should buy the land, and, if so, for how much.

Called an inverse condemnation lawsuit, it's one of the first of its kind in northern Kentucky. Normally, condemnation lawsuits arise when the landowner doesn't want to sell to a government agency, which then exercises its power of eminent domain to buy the property.

In this case the Solomons contend that, because of the noise patterns, the airport effectively has taken their property for public purposes and should be required to pay them the fair-market value.

But airport officials say they don't need the land, that it is not in the high-noise contours that would require them to buy the land, and that, because it remains vacant, nothing the airport did caused the land to decrease in value.

Indeed, airport attorneys argue, besides spending about $1,000 for a zone change, the Solomons have done nothing to further their plans to develop the property. "The airport contends there has been no taking of the (Solomons') property, that it is zoned and could be developed residentially from an airport noise viewpoint," attorney Joseph L. Baker said in court documents.

The airport also contends that noise around the property actually has decreased over the past 10 years. In 1988 the land was in the 70 to 75 LDN zone, a measurement of average noise. In 1999, the airport said, most of the land was in the 65 to 70 LDN zone.

The Solomons' land lies just east of the airport, about three miles from the end of the east-west runway.

Source: Cincinnati Post