April 22, 2010 in Business

Claim against airport submitted to mediator

RMA challenged condemnations
By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane International Airport and the parent of Spokane Airways have agreed to submit a three-year-old dispute to Seattle-based mediator Tom Harris.

RMA Inc. sued the airport for improperly condemning six of its buildings, which blocked the new control tower’s line of sight to the main runway. The company prevailed in the litigation through Spokane County Superior Court and the Washington State Court of Appeals.

In January, five Washington Supreme Court justices declined to review the lower court rulings.

RMA subsequently filed a claim for up to $14 million against the airport, and the city and county of Spokane, the airport’s owners.

Attorney Greg Hesler, representing the airport, said the litigation has been stayed pending the mediation, but would not comment on what issues the mediator would review, and who would participate.

RMA Vice President John Chastek said he was bound by a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the mediation.

The airport board of directors approved the mediation Monday.

At the board’s Wednesday meeting, the owner of 18 acres near the airport asked members to buy the property, the value of which she said has been diminished by a “regulatory taking.”

Kitty Archer said her land on South Hazelwood, zoned light-industrial, is surrounded by apartments briefly permitted by a 2005 rezoning. The zoning was subsequently rescinded when airport officials complained the change could affect future airport expansion.

Archer’s property is not contiguous to the airport.

But, she said, no potential buyer is willing to put an industrial facility so close to a residential development.

“There is no disputing that the current zoning was done with the intent to protect and benefit the Airport,” she wrote in a letter to airport Director Neal Sealock. “It is my hope, that the Airport will recognize this fact, step up to the plate and take responsibility for the consequences.

“Purchase of my property is a fair and reasonable solution.”

Archer said she is asking $1.40 per square foot for the land she has lived on since 1966, a discount from the $1.80 per square foot she was seeking in August 2006.

“It’s become an albatross,” she said. “I’m working to support the place.”

Archer said the owner of another 10 acres on Hazelwood, a single mother working in Wyoming, is also desperate to sell.

Board members discussed the letter in a closed, executive session. Sealock said they would respond to Archer’s request with a letter.

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