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Landowners wronged by Chesapeake airport, judge rules


A judge has ruled in favor of landowners in a long-standing fight with the Chesapeake Regional Airport over air traffic above their property.

George and Margaret Osipovs' property in West Landing Estates was damaged without just compensation by the airport, Circuit Judge Randy Smith ruled. The Osipovses were the lead plaintiffs in a dispute involving 12 other companion cases against the airport.

"It is clear that the property has suffered a significant increase in volume, frequency and vibrations from noise due to aircraft flying directly overhead," Smith wrote in his opinion.

The court ruled that the Osipovses, if not compensated, are entitled to a hearing by a jury of landowners to determine just compensation. Either side could appeal the judge's ruling before that happens.

"Right now, nothing has been decided," said Patrick O'Donnell, the attorney for the Chesapeake Airport Authority. "We are still studying the opinion."

The Osipovses bought the home in 2001 for more than $240,000 and sold it in 2006 for $527,450, according to the court opinion. They no longer live in West Landing Estates.

The opinion comes 11 months after a seven-day trial in Chesapeake Circuit Court.

"We're very pleased with the ruling, and we think it's a big win for private property owners in Virginia," said Charles Lollar of the property rights law firm of Waldo & Lyle, which represents the homeowners.

The Osipovses and other homeowners at West Landing Estates sued the airport in 2004 over low flights they contend destroyed the tranquil, rural atmosphere of their community. The subdivision of roughly 30 homes sits about a mile and a half from the end of the airport's runway.

Homeowners contend the flights have caused cracks in walls and have broken window seals. They complain of hydraulic fluid leaking from planes onto their property.

The Constitution of Virginia forbids the General Assembly from passing "any law whereby private property is taken or damaged for public uses, without just compensation."

In the Osipovses' case, the property was "damaged" by the airport but not "taken," or deprived of all economic use, Smith ruled.

The airport opened in 1978 and now sits on about 450 acres off West Road in southern Chesapeake. West Landing Estates was built in the early 1990s.

The airport grew over the years and now is commonly used by small, private planes, helicopters and corporate jets as well as an occasional military aircraft.

Several years ago, the airport installed an instrument landing system, which allows pilots to land in darkness or bad weather. It also increased air traffic.

Attorneys for the landowners plan to move forward with the 12 companion cases.