Act Up In Air Again As Bwi Grievance Is Challenged

State To Appeal Group's Victory In Noise Zone Map Debate

February 03, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Members of the Airport Coordinating Team thought they finally had found a forum through which to air their grievances, after a judge ruled the state's Transportation Review Board must hear the group's appeal of an airport noise zone map drawn up in 1988.

Last week, however, they discovered that maybe they hadn't.

The state, which is prepared to issue new noise zone maps within the next few months and would just as soon forget about the old ones,has decided to challenge the judge's ruling.

ACT, which insists the Maryland Aviation Administration extended the zone in 1988 only topave the way for airport expansion, is digging in its heels.

"I think they are abusing the process," said Dennis Stevens, president ofthe 300-member group. "The judge made his decision."

The State Attorney General's office filed its appeal a month after Judge Warren Duckett's September 1990 ruling. During the next several months, the state tried to negotiate a settlement with the Airport Coordinating Team, but those talks broke down Dec. 21.

Assistant Attorney General Charles M. Bell offered the group a deal that "was totally rejected," Stevens said, because in it "they would concede a little and we would concede a lot."

The noise zone designates areas with an averagedaily noise level of at least 65 decibels, about the level of a downtown commercial street. Residential development is prohibited within the zone without a special permit, and people already living within its boundaries are eligible for state programs to buy their homes or help locate a buyer.

ACT argued the noise zone plan approved by thestate in 1988 was drastically different from what the public heard at a hearing the preceding August. The group contends a second public hearing should have been organized before the changes, which resultedin a larger noise zone than the public anticipated, were implemented.

The state argued that the noise zone is an "internal management tool" not subject to appeal by the review board.

Duckett agreed with ACT. "The noise zone certification goes far beyond any such internal use," he said in his September ruling. "Rather, the plan directly affects the rights of the public."

Bell said he told ACT the statewould drop its appeal if the group agreed not to pursue the case to the transportation board. In return, the state would not challenge ACT's right to appeal the new noise zone maps, which should be certified in the next few months.

Bell said the state is not afraid of a hearing. He conceded the noise zone plan is a regulation subject to review by the transportation board, but said the state is carrying out its appeal because it wants a clear definition from the courts of howto proceed in the future.

Stevens, however, charged the state with trying to stonewall a decision by dragging it out in court. "They can delay this thing and cost us a lot of money," he said. "What difference does this make to them? I think it is frivolous."

Stevens said the deal offered by the state would, in effect, erase Duckett's ruling that the noise zone plan is not an internal management tool. Andthat, he said, could prevent any challenges to the new noise zone plan.

A date for a hearing in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has not been set.

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