10/21/2006

Dallas to use eminent domain to acquire terminal: Ft Worth TX Star-Telegram, 10/18/06

By David Wethe

The Dallas City Council agreed Wednesday morning at a regular meeting to use its eminent domain powers to acquire the former Legend Airlines terminal at Dallas Love Field. The council voted 11-1 with Maxine Thornton-Reese as the lone detractor.

The next step is for the city manager and the city attorney to begin drafting papers to take over the property on the east side of Love Field. The terminal owners will appeal the process. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said she "will be pushing hard" to get the takeover done by the time she leaves the mayor's office next June.

Dallas wants to tear down the vacant six-gate terminal to fulfill its end of the Wright Amendment compromise struck earlier this year that calls for the destruction of 12 gates at Love Field.

Councilman Mitchell Rasansky told his colleagues that the city should go ahead with eminent domain because it's under a mandate by President Bush, who signed the compromise into law Friday, to do so.

But Bill Brewer, a Dallas-based attorney for the terminal owners, has said that the city should tear down 12 of its own gates instead of going after his clients’ property. He said Love Terminal Owners wants to auction off the facility, which is located on the northeast side of the airport along Lemmon Avenue.

Miller said during a lunch break in the council meeting today that the gates "are so-called gates."

"They're really just a platform," she said, adding that the gates would need an "enormous" amount of renovation to fit larger planes.

The owners of the building, Love Terminal Partners, have filed several suits to stop the tear-down. Love Terminal Partners has said that the city's condemnation talk killed a $100 million deal to sell the terminal to Pinnacle Airlines, a regional-jet affiliate of Northwest Airlines.

For most of the year, Miller has talked about tearing the building down.

The Wright Amendment compromise was struck by the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, American and Southwest airlines and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on June 14. The deal calls for the capacity of Love Field to shrink to 20 gates from 32.

Currently there are 18 gates in operation: 14 by Dallas-based Southwest, two by Fort Worth-based American and two by ExpressJet, a regional-jet affiliate of Houston-based Continental Airlines.

The Wright Amendment compromise was later put into a bill and approved by Congress on Sept. 29.

The local parties agreed to reduce the size of Love Field to 20 gates based on a study by DMJM, which said the current environmental, noise and traffic impacts during around Love Field during the Wright Amendment would be the same if the 1979 went away and more long-haul flights were introduced.

The Wright Amendment was originally passed to protect the upstart D/FW Airport by allowing flights to go from Love Field only to cities in Texas and eight nearby states. The law will be fully repealed by 2014. Until then, airlines are allowed to sell one-stop and connecting itineraries to long-haul destinations if they first stop in the Wright zone.


Ft Worth TX Star-Telegram: http://www.dfw.com