Minn. Residents Sue Airports Commission

A group of homeowners living near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Metropolitan Airports Commission, accusing it of failing to provide soundproofing promised for their homes.

The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court purports to represent a class of about 20,000 residents who live in an area where airport noise levels range from 60 to 64 decibels. The Minneapolis and Richfield homeowners group is seeking it be deemed a class-action case.

Northwest Airlines is also a defendant in the case.

A similar lawsuit was filed in April by the cities of Minneapolis, Eagan and Richfield and is being heard by Hennepin County District Judge Stephen Aldridge.

The cities and the homeowners argue that the airports commission agreed to buffer the homes from airport noise in the mid-1990s in return for the cities' agreement to the commission's airport-expansion plans.

The commission says it agreed to provide noise-abatement packages only for homes that record a noise level of 65 decibels or greater. It has spent about $223 million to soundproof about 7,700 homes at the higher decibel level.

Pat Hogan, commission spokesman, said, "We believe we have kept our commitments.''

Hogan said the airports commission is providing air conditioning to homes in the 60-to-64-decibel areas but not complete soundproofing packages.

"Is it prudent government to provide the same level of insulation for houses miles from the airport as we do to houses that are a few hundred yards from the airport?" Hogan said. "The board decided that wasn't good government.''

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has described the commission's actions as "one broken promise after another.''

Bob Moilanen, an attorney for the homeowners, said: "This community feels it has been completely betrayed by the MAC. It's troubling that after all these years, after all this community's efforts, despite the involvement of numerous political subdivisions and the state Legislature, that this issue has not been resolved."

The homeowners' suit says the sound-insulation program was to be funded by passenger fees and concessions at the airport and that the money has instead been diverted to airport expansion.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press