BRADENTON, Fla. — A North Carolina judge has bounced the dispute over who governs Charlotte Douglas International Airport back to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin said at a hearing Nov. 1 that the FAA must determine if a 13-member airport commission created by the Legislature early this year is qualified to operate the airport, according to the Charlotte Observer.
In September, the FAA said that it was unable to obtain information from the state about whether the commission is an agency of the city or an independent special district. The agency said it could not determine who is responsible for being the airport sponsor and operator under the new structure and left that up to the court.
Ervin denied a motion by airport commission attorney Richard Vinroot to issue an opinion about the FAA operating certificate saying he did not have authority to advise a federal agency. That ruling leaves Charlotte Douglas' operating certificate in the hands of the city, which has run the airport for decades.
Ervin also denied a request by the state Attorney General to dismiss the city's lawsuit challenging the new state law, and he struck down a claim by Charlotte that the legislation was unconstitutional.
"The court's action affirms that the legislation presents serious legal issues that cannot be quickly and easily resolved," Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey said in a statement. "Charlotte remains committed to protect the airport from the adverse consequences of the legislation."
The city did win approval from the judge to amend its lawsuit. The next court hearing will be in December.
The GOP-led Legislature passed the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Authority Act in July, which established a regional airport commission to run the airport. The city's lawsuit was filed July 30.
Charlotte has issued $694 million of senior-lien airport revenue bonds for Charlotte Douglas, which are rated A-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's, and Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service. About $175.2 million of special facility revenue bonds are also outstanding.