CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judge planned to hear arguments Thursday in Charlotte’s legal fight to maintain control over Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which it has run for more than 70 years.
The Charlotte City Council is challenging the General Assembly’s move to give day-to-day operations of the airport to a new commission.
The city is seeking an injunction Thursday against the legislation creating a 13-member airport commission, saying it’s unconstitutional.
But in court documents, supporters say Charlotte’s stand on the airport is “baseless” because the proposed commission would be an agency of the city.
For months, Republican lawmakers have been trying to strip Charlotte of the airport.
On July 18, the General Assembly approved transferring the airport, a US Airways hub, to a regional authority. But a judge blocked the move hours later in response to a city lawsuit.
The airport’s longtime director was ousted, and city officials feared that transferring control to an authority would send $800 million in airport bonds into default.
A week after the ruling, legislators tried a different approach to circumvent the city’s objections.
The state House and Senate repealed the airport authority measure and replaced it with legislation that created a commission. Under the new plan, the city would still own the airport — but the commission would operate it. The commission also would make critical decisions about the airport’s operations, including awarding contracts, hiring and firing and approving expansion plans.
The City Council and Mayor Patsy Kinsey oppose the new legislation and are asking a judge to block it.
The Federal Aviation Administration is monitoring the flap.
In a letter to the city, the FAA said it has concerns about the recently passed bill that lets the city own the airport while a new commission runs it.
The federal agency said that until it makes a decision, the city remains the airport sponsor, meaning it still runs the airport for now.
City Attorney Bob Hagemann said the FAA’s letter is consistent with the city’s argument against the state’s efforts to transfer control of the airport.
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