Friday, January 06, 2012

Residents sue over noise from new runway: Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (KCLT), North Carolina

Four dozen Charlotte residents sued Charlotte/Douglas International Airport on Thursday, claiming noise from the airport's new runway has lowered their home values.

Charlotte's airport, like others around the world, has wrestled for years with how to balance the noise from jet engines with nearby residents' concerns.

"These aircraft have approached and departed the airport at flight levels between 300 to 1,200 feet over and adjacent to the property," said the complaint in one lawsuit filed by Charlotte attorney Thomas Odom Jr., on behalf of homeowners Edward and Shirley Moore.

The homeowners are seeking damages from the city, which owns and operates the airport, based on the diminished value of their property that they say the new flights overhead are causing.

Airport officials declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday, citing the city's policy of not discussing pending litigation.

The lawsuits stem from the airport's newest runway, which opened in February 2010. The 9,000-foot-long strip runs north-south, roughly parallel to I-485 between Wilkinson Boulevard and West Boulevard.

Under a federal program, the airport has paid for sound insulation to 1,200 houses and bought another 400 homes to resolve noise complaints since 1990. But some residents living outside the designated noise-mitigation areas say they are still subject to near-constant overhead flights, with the accompanying noise and vibration.

There were 671 scheduled daily departures from Charlotte/Douglas in November, along with hundreds of arrivals. Odom said 40 of the homeowners who filed suit live south of the runway and eight live to the north. He said it was "unclear" whether all of them lived outside the airport's noise-mitigation areas.

The Moores live in the Eagle Lake neighborhood, in southwest Charlotte. Their house is about a mile and a half from the southern end of the new runway. According to a 2010 airport noise program map, it lies outside the noise-mitigation area.

The lawsuit filed Thursday said that since the runway opened, homeowners have experienced "a substantial increase in the frequency and number of airplane flights" overhead, and that has "impacted or completely deprived" their ability to sell the property at fair market value.

Reached by telephone, Shirley Moore declined to comment. According to property records, she and her husband have owned the house since 1978.

Charlotte/Douglas has been down this road before. About 400 residents sued the airport after a new runway was opened in 1979, city Aviation Director Jerry Orr said Thursday.

Orr said the airport lost one of those lawsuits and won another, then settled the rest.

In addition to noise complaints from residents close to the airport, Charlotte/Douglas has also recently faced the ire of residents who live further from the airport.

Those residents live along new, more concentrated flight patterns approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2009, which funnel the planes into the airport on a tighter path. Airport officials and the FAA have said they're working on that issue.

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