Cleveland Resolution Warns against Airport Lawsuit

The Cleveland City Council thinks someone who files a lawsuit to delay or stop development of a new city airport should pay for any grant money that might be lost because of the litigation.

Council members last week passed a resolution supporting construction of new airport and "endorsing the pursuit of any/all litigation expenses and/or damages resulting from the loss of any grants" because of a lawsuit.

Councilman Richard Banks sponsored the resolution.

"One person, one lawyer, has filed a lawsuit," Mr. Banks said, calling the suit by local resident Frankie Lewis "frivolous."

A single opponent "is trying to hold up the process that so many people have worked so long to bring about," he said.

The attorney who filed just such a suit on behalf of city resident Frankie Lewis called the resolution "silly."

"You don't win lawsuits by making threats," Richard Fisher said.

He noted attorneys for the county and for the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority have filed responses and do not call the lawsuit frivolous.

He said he wasn't worried about the city seeking money from him or his client to make up for lost grant money. Mr. Fisher said the city can build an airport without state help by using its own taxing power.

Mr. Fisher acknowledged he has only one client in the lawsuit and that it is not a class action suit on behalf of residents who have opposed placing the new airport on a site near the Tasso community.

Lynn DeVault, chairwoman of the Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority, told the City Council on Monday the authority has turned its defense over to attorneys from the Tennessee Municipal League.

The state has approved a grant for an environmental study for the new airport site that she hopes will be finished by April, 2007, she said.

The city holds options to purchase the site, she said, and the authority will stay in touch with property owners "and make sure everybody continues to be on board," Ms. DeVault said.

Some people living near the airport site have voiced concerns, Ms. DeVault said and "I don't want to discount any of their concerns. But we do feel this is somewhat of a nuisance suit."

There will be at least two public hearings on neighborhood concerns during the environmental study, she said.

A new general aviation airport is a years-old dream in Cleveland. Mayor Tom Rowland, a long-time advocate for a new airport, said Monday that "virtually every community in Tennessee touts their airport and the length of their runway" in advertising aimed at industry.

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