CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- A long-standing fight between the Chesapeake Regional Airport and its unhappy neighbors is winding its way to a conclusion in the courts.
Airport officials contend they have done everything possible to keep airplane noise down in the area over the West Landing Estates subdivision. Homeowners who have sued the airport authority fume that low flights have destroyed the tranquil, rural atmosphere of their community.
After a seven-day trial before Circuit Judge Randy Smith in December, attorneys for both sides wrapped up their presentation of evidence in the lead case Osipovs v s. Chesapeake Airport Authority. A ruling could come by spring.
Neighbors claim that the airport is no longer a stagnant landing field and has essentially taken an air easement over the homeowners' property without just compensation. They filed their suits in summer 2004.
"The flights directly and immediately interfere with the petitioners' use and enjoyment of their property," the lawsuit states. "These flights occur at all hours of the day and night and on all days of the week."
Although the trial ended in December , several stages remain in the civil process.
Patrick O'Donnell, the attorney for the Airport Authority, filed post-trial briefs this month . Attorneys from the property rights law firm of Waldo & Lyle, representing homeowners, are to file a response next week.
Both sides will get 30 minutes to make oral arguments in February. If the court ruled that the homeowners' property was unlawfully taken, a jury would then be selected to determine just compensation.
Joseph Love, airport manager since July 2001, was the last defense witness in December. Residents have called him about noise, Love testified, and he has advised pilots to avoid flying over homes whenever possible .
"My opinion is that they're greatly exaggerating the noise," Love said in court .
The airport opened in 1978 and sits on about 450 acres off West Road in southern Chesapeake. It is commonly used by small, private planes and corporate jets. Occasionally, a small military aircraft may land there.
West Landing Estates, a roughly 30-home subdivision, was built in the early 1990s and is located about a mile and a half from the end of the airport's runway.
The lead plaintiffs in the civil action are George and Margaret Osipovs, who have documented their concerns on video and kept a written log of flights over their home. The Osipovs have since moved from the area.
About 13 homeowners have filed suit against the Airport Authority. They contend the flights have caused cracks in walls and have broken window seals, forcing them to replace windows, according to Charles Lollar, one of the attorneys for the homeowners. They complain of hydraulic fluid leaking from planes onto their property.
The flights disrupt television, telephone and radio reception, they contend.
This fiscal year, taxpayers contributed about $287,279 - or 44 percent - of the airport's operating budget of $652,298. The same number of city dollars made up the airport's budget last year, according to city officials.
Therefore, the cost of the legal defense and any compensation to homeowners would be footed, in part, by city taxpayers. Kevin Hubbard, chairman of the Chesapeake Airport Authority, said he did not know the legal costs to date.
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