Supreme Court Decision on Bond Intervention Case

We received the Supreme Court’s decision on the Bond Intervention Case, and they did NOT rule in our favor. We’re still reviewing the court’s decision, but we continue to believe the commercialization efforts were done behind our backs and in secret. And, we still feel very strongly that commercialization would be very detrimental to the county and environment, and we are still committed to pursuing our opposition.

The truth is, the airport circumvented the lawsuit and found a way to get the money they wanted to do the work on the taxiway by borrowing money from the IBA and County months ago. So, now, based on the agreement, the approval of the $3.6 mil bond means the Airport Authority can repay the IBA and County the money it owes them for the loans. Also, now Silver Comet can put their $500,000.00 in escrow, and pay the principle and interest on the bond.

As disappointing as this ruling is, please keep it in perspective. We have more significant cases than the bond intervention case, plus an FAA Settlement that will do more towards opposing the commercialization than anything else at this time. So, the reality is, as much as we hoped for a different outcome, this case is more symbolic than anything, so keep you chin up and don’t let this discourage you!


Supreme Court Decision

AA Steering Committee Meeting 06-26-2014

Here’s yesterday’s AA Steering Committee Meeting Video, 6/26/14. It’s quite long, yet interesting. The video begins with the guest speakers, Tom Cable, attorney for the AA and IBA, and Rep. Howard Maxwell. There was also a lot of dialogue about citizens’ participation, which this board is very in favor of. This committee will meet twice a month — the 2nd and 4th Thursday at 6:00 p.m. The July 24th meeting will be dedicated to establishing the rules of citizens’ participation. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend, to give your input on this wonderful opportunity we’re being given!

AA Steering Comittee Meeting 06-26-2014

Michael Baker Corp status update

We know you’re wondering what the status of the Michael Baker Corp. is… so are we! Here’s a letter, dated 6/24/14, from our attorney to Michael Fineman, Esq. of the FAA. Pete included the letter he wrote to Lisa Favors regarding our comments. We’ll keep you posted!

Michael:

Good morning. I’m writing on behalf of the landowners that I represent in conjunction with the FAA proposed actions at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. My clients have two questions we are hoping you can answer. First, with respect to the request below to Ms. Favors, has the Region reached any decision on how to respond? Second, can you provide any insight into how or when the FAA intends to respond to my clients’ allegation that the present contractor has conflicts of interest that disqualify it from preparing the EA that was the subject of the April 21 Notice of Intent? Obviously, the FAA would need to address this second matter at some point in the NEPA process; we were hopeful that it would be soon, before too many federal funds are spent reimbursing a contractor for work it is not lawfully entitled to perform.

As always, we would be pleased to discuss these concerns with you in greater detail if that would facilitate the agency’s resolution of these issues. Thanks for your time and consideration of this message.

Best,

Pete Steenland

Dear Ms. Favors:

Last week, I transmitted to you the comments of my clients with regard to the agency’s Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment for proposed actions at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. It is my understanding that the FAA received other comments as well.

Today, I am writing to ask that the Region take steps to enhance the transparency and accessibility of this matter by devoting the resources necessary to allow access to all documents, comments, and other administrative record materials by placing them in a separate electronically accessible electronic location. I know that the FAA has done this in the past; the agency’s “front page” on the web contains a link to all documents relating to the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia airspace improvement actions. Similarly, the Department of State website provides a direct link to all documents relating to its consideration of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the requested Presidential Permit.

I recognize that a diligent, savvy navigator of the web could go to www.regulations.gov and perhaps extract comments and documents germane to this matter. But there are many other subjects unrelated to Paulding that appear when searching for Paulding matters. This clutter distracts, making that site barely accessible even to skillful electronic explorer. Also, even a diligent search suggests that not all comments may have been included on that site.

In this Paulding matter, my clients are especially concerned that the federal government should provide ready access to all comments and related documents. For years, these Paulding residents have suffered from a lack of transparency that has seemed to be the hallmark of local decision-making in all matter affecting this airport. Therefore, they and I have now placed great faith and confidence in the integrity of the FAA’s NEPA process. As the agency considers all the comments it solicited, we would be most grateful if the FAA would take immediate steps to make the documents on this matter more accessible.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this request.

Pete Steenland

Posted in FAA

Citizen suggestions for the AA Steering Committee

A group of residents put a list of suggestions together for the AA Steering Committee, which was presented to them at last night’s meeting. (Video to come later today) Here’s our initial list:

Dear Airport Authority Steering Committee,

Here is a list, compiled by thirty Paulding County residents, of suggested changes to the Paulding County Airport Authority Code of Ordinances, which we would like you to take into consideration. We appreciate this opportunity to submit our contribution. Thank you!

1.) No Airport Authority Board Member should sit on the Industrial Building Authority or Economic Development Boards.

2.) A term limit of no more than two (2) years for every board member, with a maximum of two terms. All board members should be Paulding County residents.

3.) Board Officers should have a one (1) year term limit, shall be voted into office by the Board of Commissioners for up to a maximum of four (4) terms, and must be Paulding County residents.

4.) Each Paulding County Commissioner appoints one (1) resident to be an Airport Authority Board Member from his or her Post/District. The Commission Chairman shall appoint one (1) resident from the Post/District that the airport resides in – currently, Post 2.

5.) The Chamber of Commerce should elect one (1) member of the Paulding County business community, by way of a majority vote of its membership, to serve on the Airport Authority Board.

6.) The remaining three (3) board members shall be voted onto the board by the Board of Commissioners. These members must have a background and experience in the aviation industry, and be Paulding County residents.

7.) The Airport Director should hold only one paid county position, including no appointments to any other board or county entity, and should be a Paulding County resident.

8.) The Airport Authority should NOT have the authority to issue any revenue bonds. Any and all bonds should be implemented and approved by the Board of Commissioners.

9.) The Airport Authority should NOT have the authority to condemn real property, rights-of-way or easements. Any such condemnation should be the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners or a Condemnation Board.

10.) Airport Authority should NOT have the authority to purchase, lease or dispose of any real property without the approval of the Board of Commissioners.

Again, thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
The Paulding Co. Residents

AJC Article, 6/26/14 – Folks, hold onto your hats for this one!!!

Atlanta: Paulding airport would ‘breach’ land deal
By Kelly Yamanouchi – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The city of Atlanta once considered starting a second commercial airport on land it bought in Paulding County. Now it’s threatening to sue Paulding for trying to start its own.

In the latest obstacle for Paulding’s airport ambitions, Atlanta officials have sent a letter warning the county they might go to court to block plans for airline operations at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.

Some Paulding residents say they were surprised by plans to commercialize their new airport, potentially increasing noise and traffic.

Their argument: Part of the Paulding airport sits on a chunk of land the county bought back from the city several years ago, and the city understood it would be used only for non-commercial aviation. Plans for airline flights are “a material breach of contract,” Candace Byrd, Mayor Kasim Reed’s chief of staff, wrote in the letter.

Paulding Commission chairman David Austin’s response? “It’s just B.S.”

He noted that the Atlanta mayor delivered a speech touting regionalism to the Paulding Chamber of Commerce in 2011, telling the audience Atlanta is not an enemy, but a friend.

Now, Austin says, “The moment we start having success out here, they turn on us like a rabid dog, and say, “You’re not entitled to success.”

The threat of legal action by the city is hardly the only obstacle facing Paulding’s plans. Last year the county airport authority struck an airport terminal lease with a private company and, after months of quiet preparation, announced it hoped to offer limited airline service — a few flights a week, initially, to a leisure destination.

Since then some Paulding residents have mounted legal and bureacratic challenges that have slowed the airport’s preparations. And no airline partner for the project has yet emerged.

The county’s airport plan also riled the city of Atlanta, which owns and operates Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and its biggest tenant, Delta Air Lines. Both oppose any sort of second commercial airport, arguing it could grow to drain resources and customers from Hartsfield-Jackson.

That wasn’t always the case.

In the 1970s the city bought about 10,000 acres of Paulding land as a potential second airport site. Over the years the idea waned, but the city kept that land, as well as another tract in Dawson County in north Georgia.

In 2007 Atlanta sold 163 acres to Paulding as the county developed its new general aviation airport. Then-general manager Ben DeCosta at the time struck a cooperative tone, saying the deal was to help economic development in Paulding.

Now, Byrd’s letter says the property was sold for a project that was “restricted to a ‘Regional General Aviation Airport’” and that there is “no other use permitted.”

“The City would never have sold the Property to Paulding County had the City known that Paulding County would attempt to convert [the Paulding airport into a] commercial airport that would compete with Hartsfield-Jackson,” Byrd’s letter says.

The city said the development of a second commercial airport “will damage the vital economic engine and development role Hartsfield-Jackson plays for the entire region” and that the letter preserves the city’s rights to initiate litigation.

Hartsfield-Jackson’s newly named general manager, Miguel Southwell, said the city hasn’t decided whether to sue but that the letter “preserves a right we believe that we have.”

A city spokesperson said the letter was sent “in hopes that an agreement could be reached before legal action is taken,” according to the city.

Austin, who received the letter, said he believes the purpose was “to see if they can’t scare us.”

His response: “C’mon.”

Paulding airport director Blake Swafford, a chief architect of the county’s plan, said Atlanta’s position “just boggles my mind.”

“They bought the [10,000 acres] for the purpose of building a commercial service airport. So their position is they can build a commercial service airport in Paulding County, but Paulding County can’t build one?” Swafford said.

“If the city of Atlanta moves forward and decides to file a lawsuit, then of course we’ll defend it,” he said. “But at this point, there’s no change in our position.”

Neighbor Newspaper Article, 6/26/14

Neighbor Newspaper Article, 6/26/14

Airport director asks why group opposes development efforts
by Tom Spigolon

The Paulding airport director last week criticized the group opposing commercialization of Silver Comet Field for shifting its focus to other areas of the facility designed to attract job-producing aerospace companies.

Blake Swafford said he found it “interesting that the opposition group has been saying for a year now that they’re not opposed to maintenance [or] manufacturing facilities” but is now asking a state agency to reverse its five-year-old determination that a planned industrial site was not subject to state stream buffer restrictions.

“[They said] they’re not opposed to the jobs, they just don’t want the commercial,” Swafford said. “Either they’ve changed their position and now they oppose that, or they were simply lying all along. I don’t know which.”

The group includes Anthony Avery, Bob and Mary Board, Jordan and Jan Louie and Sue Wilkins. Their efforts have included prompting a new federal environmental review of the airport in anticipation of proposed commercial passenger airline service.

Wilkins disputed Swafford’s assertions the group had changed any previously announced focus.

“We do not want industry to go in there if it’s going to compromise our environment,” she said. “Rules have to be followed. We expect everything to be done properly and to the letter of the law and we won’t expect anything less.”

The group, in a letter to Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Judson Turner last week, said they wanted him to reverse former agency director Carol Couch’s decision that airport officials did not need a variance from requirements for a 50-foot stream buffer on a building site adjacent to the airport terminal building.

Their attorney, Peter Steenland, said in a letter to the state agency that Couch made her determination after airport officials provided a plan showing the land only contained exempted roadway drainage structures.

“Again, it is unclear what information about the project had been provided to Dr. Couch when she made this clearly erroneous determination.”

“[Couch’s] determination is all the more erroneous now because the applicant has made significant modifications to the project since the permit was issued,” Steenland wrote, referring to a concept plan included in information provided to the division.

Swafford said Steenland was referring to a generic concept plan the Federal Aviation Administration approved as part of the overall plan for the airport that airport officials later sent to the environmental protection division.

He said the airport authority already spent more than $1 million to bring the land into compliance with environmental laws.

“We received the buffer variances and we went and paid for our environmental mitigation based on [Couch’s determination],” he added

“When you have the head person at EPD saying this is OK, that’s the assurance that we went on. I don’t have any reason to think that EPD made a mistake. They’re the agency in the state of Georgia that takes care of these things. It’s their job.”

Paulding Neighbor Article, 6/25/14 Thanks, Tom! 

This article pertains to the letter our attorney wrote to the EPD — GA Dept. of Natural Resources, posted on 6/17/14… NOT today’s posted letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Airport stream buffer approval questioned
by Tom Spigolon

A group opposing airport commercialization has turned its attention to county efforts to develop adjacent land for aerospace companies.

The six residents, in a letter to Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Judson Turner, said they want him to reverse former agency director Carol Couch’s determination that airport officials did not need a variance from stream buffer laws on a site adjacent to the Silver Comet Field terminal building.

Their attorney, Peter Steenland, of the Washington, D.C., firm of Sidley Austin, said despite whatever plans the Paulding Airport Authority showed Couch in 2009, it changed them to include parking lots and enclosed hangars that “do not fit” within an exemption that only allowed roadway drainage structures.

“They said they were going to do one thing, and they did another,” said Steenland, in a telephone interview.

However, Paulding Airport Director Blake Swafford said Steenland’s accusations that airport officials gave the state one concept plan “and then turned around and changed it” were “silly.”

“The concept that we gave to [the environment protection division] was a concept,” he said. “It was not a hard and fast set of plans.

“There was no smoke and mirrors here, there’s no deception.”

Swafford said the development plan calls for the airport authority to prepare the site but “some things may have to be shifted around to make sure we stay in compliance” with state law on stream buffers if a company constructs buildings of any kind.

The group seeking the reversal includes six county residents who prompted a new federal environmental review of the airport in anticipation of proposed commercial passenger airline service.

Officials at the EPD said Tuesday they had received the letter and were evaluating it.

Looks like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t aware of the Airport Authority’s plans either!

Excerpt: “In essence, the permittee told the Corps it wanted to build a “Mom and Pop” convenience store but when it got the permit, it executed contracts to construct a regional shopping mall instead. On this basis alone, revocation of the permit is warranted.”

6.24.14 Ltr to USACE