After decades of fighting a proposed runway, Dania Beach is about to sign a settlement that would give money to homeowners most affected.
Poised to approve a unique settlement to pay off Dania Beach homeowners who live near a parcel of land long-eyed as a prospective runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Dania Beach Commission instead voted to defer their vote until next Tuesday.
According to the city charter, there must be at least 10 days between votes on land-use issues. To a room packed with residents and camera crews, the city’s attorney recommended the commission wait until next week to make its final vote on the issue since it had just approved accepting the deal on first reading last Tuesday.
Even so, it’s expected the commission will approve the deal, in which homeowners could get financial assistance from Broward County and the Federal Aviation Administration to help sell or soundproof their homes in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. It’s believed to be the first time in the United States homeowners will be given money to help make up for the loss of their property value when a neighboring airport expands.
“The reality is, we are David, we are the little guy,’’ said City Commissioner Walter Duke. “We only have so much leverage. But this is the best deal we have.’’
The settlement will offer homeowners these options:
• 1,700 homeowners can take a payment from Broward County amounting to 20 percent of their home’s value in exchange for signing a release saying they won’t take part in any lawsuit;
• These homeowners can also accept $80,000 to soundproof their homes;
• The homes most affected by sound pollution, approximately 857, can sign up for sales assistance from the FAA. Only 22 homes will be sold each year and homeowners who receive less than the market value will receive the difference, up to 25 percent.
Once the Dania Beach Commission gives the proposal final approval, the deal will need to be signed off by Broward County Commission and the FAA.
Then, those homeowners affected will have up to a year to make their choice from the options.
“I’m not done yet,’’ promised Dania Beach Commissioner Anne Castro. “I’m going to shame them, guilt them into doing what’s right.
After a decades’-long fight, city leaders began considering the pay out deal from the County Commission and the FAA, resigned there was nothing they could do to stop the runway from being built. Late last year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld Broward’s plan to build a new “main’’ runway on the south side of the airport.
“The airport’s going to grow whether we like it or not,’’ said Commissioner C.K. McElyea.
The $790 million runway is scheduled to be open for bigger, commercial jets in 2014. The new runway is expected to increase the amount of take-offs and landings that can occur at the airport, thereby bolstering the local economy.
The county endorsed a plan to build the runway about five stories above the ground, going over U.S. 1 and the train tracks.
The primary concern of residents is the noise and air pollution. In June, the county and the FAA began paying for soundproofing at 48 residences south and west of the airport. It’s estimated to cost between $60,000 and $75,000 per home to replace the doors, windows, insulation and air conditioning units.
“Residents in certain areas are being asked to give up their life style,’’ said Linda Sacco, a member of the Dania Beach Airport Advisory Board, “which happens to be boating where I live, it happens to be outdoor life, it happens to be using pools, and it happens to be breathing clean air.”