Monday, November 28, 2016

Chatham mum on skydiving appeal




CHATHAM -- An appeals court judge recently ruled against the town of Chatham in its effort to overturn a Barnstable Superior Court judge’s ruling that said a skydiving suit could go forward. The town’s next steps are still unclear.

After the Nov. 4 decision by the appeal’s court, the selectmen met in executive session. To avoid a lengthy and expensive trial, they had hoped the lawsuit, filed by Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport, would be dismissed and the board still has the opportunity to appeal the most recent decision. They can also battle the matter out in court. The citizens group is suing the town to make sure it doesn’t allow skydiving, however, the Federal Aviation Administration has told town officials it must allow the activity to live up to its grant obligations as the municipal airport on George Ryder Road has received significant federal funding over the years.

Although the future plans of the board have not been announced, selectmen chairman Jeffrey Dykens did say in an e-mail that they will “proceed in a direction that the board of selectmen believes is in the best interests of all the citizens of Chatham.”

This was the third time the town has tried to have the case dismissed, as its counsel, Patrick Costello, has argued that the suit infringes on the selectmen’s ability to make decisions on how the town is run. The attorney for the citizens group has argued that skydiving is a public nuisance.

The matter arose more than three years ago when selectmen, sympathetic to the concerns of residents about safety and noise, asked that the skydiving contract not been renewed. After Town Manager Jill Goldsmith refused to sign a new lease for Skydive Cape Cod, which had been operating out of the airport, the company's owner filed a complaint with the FAA.

Since state and federal inspections had revealed no safety problems, the FAA said the town’s airport couldn’t discriminate against skydiving. The selectmen tried to craft a request for proposals that addressed some citizens concerns, but shortly after two companies responded the RFP the citizens’ lawsuit was filed.

Those who support the citizens group believe the town can work with experts to convince the FAA that skydiving at the airport is unsafe.

Source:  http://orleans.wickedlocal.com

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