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Norfolk, VA 23510
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Chesapeake airport damaged home despite increase in value

A judge has ruled that the Chesapeake Airport Authority damaged a home even though the property more than doubled in value during the five years a couple owned it.

George and Margaret Osipovs and 11 other property owners in the West Landing Estates subdivision have fied inverse condemnation suits against the authority alleging that increased air traffc has diminished the value of their property.

The Osipovs, the lead plaintiffs, and their attorney Joseph T. Waldo of Norfolk, contended that the increased noise and vibration amounted to a taking or damage for public use without just compensation under Aricle I, § 11 of the Virginia Constitution.

Judge Randall D. Smith ruled on Nov. 16 that the Osipovs could hardly contend that the authority had taken their propertybecause the Supreme Court of Virginia has defined a takng as depriving an owner of all economic use of his property.

But the Virginia Constitution differs from its federal counterpart by providing for damage to property in addition to an outright taking, Smith said.

Smith said he found the testimony of the residents and their noise expert persuasive on that point. The airport began operating in 1977, well before construction of most of the homes involved in the lawsuits.

The judge agreed with the airport's attorney, Patrick H. O'Donnell of Norfolk, that the desire of the property owners to reside in the "rural country environment" they thought they had acquired when they bought their property was largely irrelevant.

"However, Plaintiffs also describe noise from low flying aircraft, smell of fumes, vibrations and increase in number of flights over their property and of the type of aircraft flying over their property," Smith wrote in Osipovs v. Chesapeake Airport Authority (VLW 007-8-247). "Claims of noise and vibration are a disturbance in the use and enjoyment of their property and is a right contained in the legal 'bundle of rights' property owners possess."

Other property owners in the city did not share in such injuries, Smith said. "There is no requirement that Plaintiffs establish a threshold dollar amount in order for the Court to find constitutional damages," he wrote. "The exact amount of damages is not important at this stage as Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01.84."

Smith invited the parties to seek an interlocutory appeal before the case is submitted to a jury for a determination of damages.

Waldo said he believes he can prove that the Osipovs's property would have appreciated even more than the $527,450 they sold it for in April 2006 after having paid $246,600 for in March 2001. An offer for a higher price was withdrawn largely because of noise from the airport, Waldo alleged.

Although it is generating more traffic as a result of the longer runway and ILS system, the airport is still a relatively small operation. It generates only $30,000 a month in revenues, according to a report in The Virginian-Pilot, and the city subsidizes about 45 percent of its operating costs with a contribution of about $300,000 a year.

City officials told the newspaper that the airport is an important economic development tool, even with the subsidy.