News Article - September 07, 2009


  Questions of jurisdiction are holding up a Tinicum lawsuit filed last May in the Delaware County Common Pleas Court seeking a declaratory judgment on an 84-year-old statute that could keep Philadelphia from extending its airport further into the township. A proposed capacity enhancement plan at Philadelphia International Airport could displace at least 72 residences and 3,300 jobs from Tinicum, according to a draft environmental impact statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

  In a joint filing with the county, Tinicum asked for a determination on the validity of a 1925 statute that provides first-class cities the authority to acquire lands for airports and landing fields outside their borders only “with the consent of the local authorities where such land is situated.” A previous agreement between the township and the city required Philadelphia to get approval from commissioners before buying land in Tinicum, but that pact expired in 2007 and the two sides have been unable to come to terms on a new agreement.

  Following the determination filing, Philadelphia filed a motion to move the suit to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As acting Airport Director Mark Gale explained, the CEP was developed under federal guidelines laid out in the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act of 2003 and, therefore, should come under federal jurisdiction.

  “What’s at issue here is the airport’s capacity enhancement project, and that program was developed and is currently being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, a federal agency, and it was done entirely within the guidelines of federally mandated law,” said Gale. “We believe the matter should be handled by a federal court due to its federal nature.” County Solicitor John McBlain said the township and county filed a motion asserting the case should be remanded back to the state court because zoning and land-use matters have traditionally been a state court matter in dealing with airport issues.

  “We’re back and forth and back and forth,” said Tinicum Commissioner Tom Giancristoforo Jr. “This is a Pennsylvania statute, that’s the bottom line. We just feel that a Pennsylvania statute should be upheld in Pennsylvania court, not a federal court.” Meanwhile, he said the future of his township is “in limbo” and residents are scared to death of what tomorrow might bring. “They don’t know if five years from now they’re going to be living in the same house or have to live in a house that’s $50,000 more,” said Giancristoforo. “I’m sure they would like a finalization to this whole entire mess. Let’s get these court cases resolved.” There has been no ruling on the jurisdiction argument. A status conference with counsel and Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell is scheduled for Sep. 23 to discuss scheduling.

Source - Daily Times