Land battle must soon be resolved

Published 1:04 pm Thursday, September 27, 2012

The concept of eminent domain — the government’s ability to essentially force a citizen to sell property for what some elected officials determine to be a greater public good — always sparks strong feelings on both sides of the issue.

A case right here at home that involves the Lawrence County Commissioners, the Lawrence County Airport and two private development companies is a perfect illustration of this.

The county is seeking more than 40 acres through this process in order to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements in regards to clearance of trees and other obstructions at both ends of the runway at the Chesapeake airport.

The family that owns the property doesn’t think the current offer is fair.

Both are probably right.

If the county chose not to keep the airport operational, all of the property would revert to the family. But since it plans to do so — an idea that certainly could be debated for its own merits — cutting these trees and acquiring this additional property is absolutely vital. At least two planes have crashed there in recent years.

But the family is correct in seeking better compensation. Although the acreage itself may not be worth more than the offer, maintaining the airport does have a financial impact on the family and the nearby property values and its potential usage. So it is reasonable to seek more compensation.

Hopefully both sides can come to an agreement sooner rather than later, keeping this out of court and allowing public safety to be the focus as quickly as possible.