Tempe backs off airport lawsuit - East Valley Tribune: News

Tempe backs off airport lawsuit

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2003 12:40 am | Updated: 2:24 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Tempe officials said Thursday they likely will drop one of three lawsuits lodged to calm the environmental and noise impacts of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The move, which the City Council will consider Thursday, could repair strains between the two cities, said Tempe Vice Mayor Barb Carter.

"It's a new relationship with the city of Phoenix and Sky Harbor," she said. "You can accomplish more things when a relationship is not strained. Lawsuits can strain a relationship."

But the suit, filed in October to halt the $65 million repaving of the airport's center runway, no longer needs to be resolved, said Sky Harbor aviation director David Krietor.

In January, a judge denied Tempe's request for an emergency injunction to stop construction on the runway.

At the time, Phoenix released a statement quoting City Attorney Peter Van Haren as saying: "No one in the courtroom was surprised by the judge's ruling, and in my opinion, Tempe should reconsider using litigation every time they don't get their way."

Since then, Sky Harbor closed the runway, repaved it and opened it again on March 25, Krietor said.

"The whole thing at this point is pretty much a moot point," he said.

Tempe was concerned that the massive construction project would kick up pollutants and potentially harm Tempe businesses and residents just two miles east of Sky Harbor's runways.

Tempe still has two pending lawsuits against the Federal Aviation Administration regarding air paths over the city. Mediation has been ongoing in Washington, D.C., but officials say they can't comment on the progress.

From July 1, 2002, to June 1, Tempe has spent about $200,000 on legal fees for the three lawsuits, said Tempe community relations director Randy Gross.

Despite the lawsuits, Tempe still is looking for out-of-court answers to its complaints about noise pollution, Gross said.

On Wednesday, Tempe's Aviation Committee approved a proposal designed to cut down on noise above Tempe's northwest neighborhoods.

The plan would reinstate landings into Sky Harbor that require pilots to follow the Salt River bed until they approach the airport, and then divert south. The FAA stopped the procedure last year after it said there was a near collision, Gross said.

"We didn't think it was confusing," Gross said. "The FAA said it was confusing."

The Tempe proposal approved this week asks the FAA to write the landing procedure into the airport's formal landing procedures so pilots would be prepared for it, Gross said. Tempe will forward it to the FAA for consideration.

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