Atlanta Files Lawsuit Against the Little Airport That Couldn’t

Paulding County breached the sales contract of 163 acres of land which the city of Atlanta sold to the County in western Georgia back in 2007 for construction of Silver Comet Field of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport — according to this lawsuit filed by the city in Paulding Superior Court in late June — because the board of directors of the airport authority of Paulding County have been attempting to recruit a commercial passenger airline to use the small airport for five years instead of keeping to a verbal promise that the airport would only serve general aviation uses and not compete for passenger service with the international airport that serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.

Atlanta Files Lawsuit Against the Little Airport That Couldn’t

On his last day in office as the commission chairman of Paulding County on Friday, December 30, 2016, David Austin reportedly signed a quit claim deed in a secret attempt to transfer 163 acres of county land at the small airport to the airport authority “at the request of airport attorneys to avoid a potential airport authority lawsuit against the commission for not transferring the land” — and as a result, “Paulding commissioners will withhold federal funds from the county airport authority until a controversial December land swap is reversed”, according to this article written by 

Dave Carmichael — who is the current commission chairman of Paulding County — does not believe that the action is legally grounded and is “in full support of receiving the money that has already been spent.”

A Brief History — and Opposition — To The Expansion of the Airport

As I first reported back on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, the international airport in Atlanta was about to get some competition from what is to this day still a small airport in western Georgia; but fierce opposition and outrage by citizens of Paulding County — as well as nine lawsuits which remain unsettled — blocked this idea from becoming a reality.

Residents of Paulding County have expressed opposition, as a letter was reportedly sent to the Department of Transportation and signed by a number of them as are concerned about use of taxpayer money to fund the commercialization; and they supposedly asked for development activities to cease. An area of Facebook is devoted to this opposition.

The opposition has polarized Paulding County to the point that this letter was sent on Monday, July 3, 2017 from Steven E. Hicks — who is the director of the Airports Division, Southern Region of the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States Department of Transportation — to both Dave Carmichael and Boyd Austin, informing them that until further notice, the federal agency will respond only to joint communications submitted by the co-sponsors:

“Both co-sponsors continue to express opposing views about introducing commercial service at the airport and other matters. These disputes, and all the resulting local litigation, are impeding the airport’s development and, potentially, its safe and efficient operation. The FAA has invested $42 million in the airport in the reliance of the sponsors’ commitments to manage the airport in the most effective and efficient way possible. Under the circumstances, it does not appear that the County and the Authority are abiding by these commitments.”

Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport Map

Imagery ©2013 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2013 courtesy of Google Maps.

Delta Air Lines has also been opposed to Silver Comet Field of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport competing for commercial passenger service. In one of his final acts as chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines in May of 2016, Richard Anderson signed an agreement with Kasim Reed — who is the current mayor of Atlanta — in which Delta Air Lines is committed to keeping its world headquarters based in Atlanta; and in return, the city of Atlanta agreed not to build a second commercial airport during the next 20 years.

Allegiant Travel Company — which owns Allegiant Air, at one time the most profitable airline in the United States — had filed a letter of intent a few years ago to provide commercial air service, according to Blake Swafford, who was the director of Silver Comet Field of Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport. Airport planners hope to eventually start with only a couple of flights per week, which would not affect operations at the main airport operated by the city of Atlanta.

For additional details pertaining to the history of this sordid and ongoing saga, please refer to the following three articles:

Summary

The Board of Commissioners of Paulding County has until Wednesday, July 26, 2017 to respond to the lawsuit by the city of Atlanta.

Officials of the Federal Aviation Administration stated in a statement that a project must be completed with the grant funding in a timely manner according to the regulations and guidelines of the agency; but it did not specify how or when grants should be distributed after they are given to a sponsor.

“The FAA in March ordered the county and airport authority to file a joint corrective action plan to finalize the transfer. Commissioners then delayed action on accepting the FAA grants until the airport board approved the joint plan”, according to the aforementioned article. “The board approved the joint plan June 29, and commissioners voted to accept the funds on June 30 in a special called meeting.”

That vote “followed a tense work session” earlier that same day during which “commissioners and two anti-commercialization activists accused Carmichael of seeking to keep information about the lawsuit from the other four commissioners who oppose commercialization for more than a week after he was served notice of it.” Carmichael reportedly claimed to forget to give the attorney of Paulding County a copy of the lawsuit, as “he dealt with last-minute details before going on a planned family vacation the following day” — resulting in disappointment and mistrust from fellow commissioners and activists who oppose the airport plan, as that action shortened the time in which the commissioners needed to discuss how to respond to the lawsuit before the deadline.

This is not the final episode of what has become the soap opera known as As The Airport Turns — or The Little Airport That Couldn’t

The terminal of Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport was completed in May of 2010. Source: Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.

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