Airport, Public Good, And Eminent Domain

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Building a new general-aviation airport doesn't fall into the same category as building a freeway or other public project, according to a recent editorial in The Roanoke (Va.) Times. A proposed airport in Franklin County would require taking land from 18 private owners by eminent domain. "Who, exactly, would use an airport limited to private planes and corporate jets?" the newspaper asks. "A handful of rich and powerful people and air enthusiasts." Claims that the community and local economy would benefit are "vague ... uncertain ... dubious," the editorial says. The landowners have formed a coalition to fight the project, which would require 330 acres. The county may have the right to take the land, under a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said there is nothing to stop local communities from using the power of eminent domain to promote economic development. Several studies have been completed, and a decision is expected later this year on whether to proceed to the next step, which would be an environmental impact assessment.