Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Skydive ruling could benefit town

CHATHAM -- Although the lawsuit against the town is moving forward, town officials say they are in a good position to defend their argument on allowing skydiving at the municipal airport.

In a statement issued after an executive session on the matter last week, Town Counsel Patrick Costello stated that the judge’s ruling not to dismiss the lawsuit of Citizens of a Safe Chatham Airport “substantively” benefited the town because Barnstable Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo agreed the nuisance claim brought by defendants must be pursued under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Although it is possible to prove a nuisance against the state and municipalities, one needs to show the property owner “creates, permits, or maintains a condition or activity on [its] property that causes a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the property of another.”

The statement also said the town will not issue a lease to a skydive operator – two are waiting in the wings – until the judge has ruled.

Several years ago a group of residents said that not only was the skydiving operation at the airport on George Ryder Road noisy it was also dangerous. Although state and federal inspectors deemed the operation safe, Town Manager Jill Goldsmith – acting at the behest of selectmen – didn’t renew the lease with Skydive Cape Cod.

Town officials did argue that there shouldn’t be a skydiving operation at the airport because, among other reasons, the area was too busy in the summer. The Federal Aviation Administration officials didn’t see it that way and mandated the town allow skydiving because the airport had been partially funded by federal grants and thereby couldn’t discriminate against any aeronautical activities.

Town officials weren’t convinced and mulled fighting the FAA until they hired an independent safety consultant and counsel who said it would be fruitless to fight the FAA and skydiving is safe, respectively.

At that point the town went forward with writing an RFP, with additional safeguards, and two companies applied. While the airport commission was deciding who to award the contract to neighbors of the airport banded together to form Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport.

Original article can be found here: http://eastham.wickedlocal.com

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