Judge Rules in Favor of Night Flights at TEX
by Gus Jarvis
Mar 28, 2013 | 3322 views | 0 0 comments | 288 288 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TELLURIDE – While the Telluride Regional Airport has been operating between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. for over a year now, District Judge Mary Deganhart upheld those operating hours in a March 20 ruling, effectively ending a contentious legal dispute.

The plaintiffs, No Night Flights Network, sought a summary judgment against both the Telluride Regional Airport Authority and the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners (contending the commissioners were compelled to enforce the sunup to sundown airport operating hours stated in the airport’s 1983-issued Special Use Permit). If the TRAA wished to change those operating hours, the plaintiffs further contended, it should comply with San Miguel County Land Use Code procedures for amending its Special Use Permit.

Because the airport falls under the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration, the BOCC maintains it had no standing. According to a legal memorandum drafted by County Attorney Steven Zwick in 2011, the “BOCC’s legal authority” to affect airport operating hours, as established in the original Special Use Permit, “was preempted by federal law,” and that the FAA’s position is that “local governments may not use their land use/zoning authority to regulate the expansion of airport facilities.”

In the summary of her eight-page ruling, Deganhart dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand that the BOCC remedy TRAA’s violation of the Land Use Code “because Plaintiffs do not have a clear right to the relief sought and neither the BOCC nor TRAA have a clear duty to perform the acts requested. Therefore, the Court will deny summary judgment to Plaintiffs and grand summary judgment in favor of Defendants.”

While the FAA has already changed TEX operating hours, TRAA Chair Jon Dwight said on Tuesday that the ruling gives airport officials a clear avenue for working with airlines to bring more commercial air service to Telluride.

“It allows us the opportunity to work on overnight flights with the airlines,” Dwight said. “There is a large bank of flights that goes into Denver at around 4 p.m. each day. Without these hours, we don’t have a chance of getting those people from Denver in the winter months. This also helps with overall accessibility to the airport.”

Dwight observed that the extended operating hours have raised public safety concerns that planes landing later in the day may have inadequate ground-support personnel. “I fly all over this country, and half the time you land at airports and there isn’t a soul around,” Dwight said. It is, he added, TRAA’s goal to “serve the community,” which wants “better air service for Telluride, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
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