The Georgia Supreme Court today ruled in favor of Paulding County in a lawsuit challenging plans to commercialize its airport.As heard on the radio
The state’s highest court Monday said a $3.6 million dollar bond to expand Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport’s taxiway is valid, the latest development in a legal battle over the airport’s expansion plans.
“I think the biggest hurdle in a project like this is getting the money, and at least so far, they’ve been cleared legally to go forward and to issue the bonds and to raise the money they’re going to need to complete the project,” said WABE Legal Analyst Page Pate.
Paulding County last year approved the bonds to pay for a controversial airport expansion that would include commercial airline service.
Along with strong opposition from Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and the City of Atlanta, Paulding’s move prompted a suit from some county residents, who argued the bonds were unconstitutional.
In the suit, the residents raised issues of secrecy surrounding the bond validation. They also argued financing would wrongly benefit a private provider.
The court Monday dismissed those challenges, saying the validation and financing were sound.
Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport director Black Swafford said the court’s ruling puts expansion plans back on track.
“This really makes us whole, puts us back where we should have been back in December with utilizing the bonds to pay for the construction.
In a statement on Facebook, a group dedicated to stopping the airport commercialization called the state Supreme Court’s decision “disappointing.” However, it said there are “more significant cases than the bond intervention case”
But Pate said Monday’s ruling is important for the airport.
“This was a major roadblock that they had to get through before they could consider more details of the proposal and these other legal challenges,” he said. “Everything was secondary to getting past this hurdle.”
Plans for the airport still face two other lawsuits, brought by the same residents who filed the bond intervention suit.
A formal environmental assessment by the Federal Aviation Administration also needs to be completed, part of an agreement that settled yet another lawsuit.
Last week, the city of Atlanta also threatened legal action against Paulding, saying commercialization is a threat to Harstfield-Jackson International Airport.
In a statement, city spokesperon Carlos Campos said that while the court upheld the bond validation, “Paulding County’s FAA application to convert its general aviation airport into a commercial one remains pending. Additionally, the ruling does not affect the City’s legal right to oppose Paulding County’s efforts to commercialize its airport.”