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"Cleveland Resolution Warns against Airport Lawsuit"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cleveland Resolution Warns against Airport Lawsuit
By Randall Higgins
The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press

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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