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Airport razing of buildings triggers claims

John Chastek is vice president of operations at Spokane Airways flight center. (Dan Pelle)
John Chastek is vice president of operations at Spokane Airways flight center. (Dan Pelle)

Spokane Airways also aims at city, county for $4 million to $8 million

Spokane Airways will file claims Monday against Spokane International Airport, Spokane County and the city of Spokane for between $4 million and $8 million, attorney Bill Symmes Sr. said Friday.

The claims follow a decision this week by five Washington Supreme Court justices not to review lower-court rulings that a 2006 condemnation of six airport buildings occupied by Spokane Airways was improper.

The city, county and airport board of directors will have 60 days to respond before Spokane Airways can seek compensation for lost leaseholds and damage to its business. The company sells fuel, operates a flight school and provides baggage handling and other services to private airplane owners.

Airport attorney Robert Dunn said damage to Spokane Airways has been overstated. The company continues to occupy three other structures at the airport, he said, and operates more efficiently from its downsized footprint.

“They’re going to have a hard time proving business interruption,” Dunn said.

Symmes, however, noted that every one of nine judges who has considered the case has ruled in Spokane Airways’ favor.

Dunn said Spokane Airways was offered $35,000 for the remaining nine months of its lease before the buildings had to be razed to clear line-of-sight to the runway from the new air traffic control tower. Spokane Airways owned the buildings before selling them to the airport in the 1980s.

He said the Supreme Court panel’s decision will probably return the case to Spokane County Superior Court, where the condemnation issues can be resolved.

Spokane Airways has claimed the airport never had condemnation powers, and could not retroactively invoke those of the city or county, which jointly own the airport. The justices agreed.

But, Symmes said, “We’re way beyond real estate.”

Uncertainty about Spokane Airways’ future at the airport scotched a potential $4 million sale of the business by founders Richard and Margaret Chastek.

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