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Court rules against airport

Wed., April 29, 2009

Spokane Airways won a victory Tuesday in the Washington Court of Appeals, which ruled that Spokane International Airport improperly condemned and removed buildings the company had occupied for almost 20 years.

The city of Spokane and Spokane County, which jointly own Spokane International Airport, have condemnation powers, the three-judge panel ruled, but the airport itself does not.

The Spokane Airways terminal and associated buildings, which catered to civilian aviators, blocked the line-of-sight view of airport runways and taxiways from the control tower, completed in 2006.

Spokane Airways moved into flight school and administrative offices elsewhere at the airport.

Spokane Airways attorney Tim Lawlor said the company’s lease with the airport provided for replacement buildings at “fair market” rents. The airport said the rent would have to fully cover the cost of new construction, which Lawlor estimated at $10 million when the company filed suit in Spokane Superior Court in November 2006.

Lawlor said Tuesday that claims against the airport likely would fall between $1 million and $10 million. “They’ve greatly damaged the business,” he said.

Lawlor and Robert Dunn, who represented the airport, said the next step could be an appeal to the Washington Supreme Court on the issue of whether the airport’s action exceeded its legal authority. Other possible next steps include a settlement or more litigation in Spokane County Superior Court over what rents Spokane Airways was entitled to under its lease.

The ruling by the three-judge Court of Appeals was unanimous.

Spokane Airways Vice President John Chastek said the decision will allow the company to look to the future. “We’re pleased,” he said.


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