October 1, 2008 Edition

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Solution to airport, golf
course issue yet to be found

Stacey Morris (standing) , Walnut Ridge Airport's engineer, shows Walnut Ridge Airport Commissioner Dr. Ralph Joseph (seated, from left), Attorney David Cahoon and Mayor Michelle Rogers maps of property owned by the Walnut Ridge Airport and the City of Walnut Ridge where the Walnut Ridge Golf Club's course could possibly be relocated.
TD Photo ~ Gloria Wilkerson

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

A special meeting of the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission was held Thursday evening at 6 p.m. to discuss the ongoing issue of the proximity of the Walnut Ridge Country Club's golf course and the airport. The commissioners and most of the Walnut Ridge City Council attended, as well as airport engineer Stacey Morris and David W. Cahoon, a Jonesboro attorney hired to defend the commission and council in a lawsuit filed against them by the Walnut Ridge Golf Club, Inc. in May.

Cahoon told those present that the meeting was being held to bring everyone up to date on the case and to inform them of the compromise offered by the golf club following Judge Harold Erwin's request that the two groups try again to settle their dispute outside of court.

In a letter from C.W. Knauts, attorney for the golf club, to Cahoon dated Aug. 27, the club requests the following: Runway 18-36 be returned to a B-2 classification from the C-3 status the Airport Commission is currently using; if the commission desires a 139 certification, then runway 18-36 will be excluded; tee boxes located at hole s#6 and #15 will be removed and relocated so they would not be considered an obstruction;

Also, cart paths on holes #5 and #14 will be removed and relocated outside the safety zones; any trees within the safety zones will be maintained to comply with a B-2 classification; trees located to the south and west of the #6 golf green will be removed at the expense of the airport commission;

Also, golf club members will dismiss their petition for a permanent injunction against the commissioners and the city, their counterclaim for damages regarding monetary losses of members, etc., and dismiss their counterclaim seeking to disqualify any or all of the commissioners because of any alleged violation of state of city conflict of law violations;

Also, the city and commission must dismiss their claim for ejectment or unlawful detainer against the golf club based on breach of covenants or actions rendering the leases of 1972 and 1974 void; and each party shall pay their own attorney's fees and court costs.

Cahoon said he has had lots of communication with Knaus and things weren't going well. "We seem to be at an impasse," Cahoon said.

He reminded those present how important it is for the parties to reach an agreement among themselves.

"What the judge was telling us when he asked us to try and find a solution was that should this go to trial, the outcome will be in the hands of the court ~ we will no longer have any control of the situation."

Morris showed several maps of airport property where some or all of the course's holes are now located and where they could be relocated. The Golf Course Relocation Plan would provide land to the golfers in an area where the course would never interfere with the airport.

"I think it is appropriate to consider the golf club's offer, and I need you to instruct me as to what you want me to do," Cahoon said. "The solution has to be the elimination of almost seven greens, and the FAA has to give you their permission to offer the golf club other land."

Meeting to be set up

The commissioners voted to reject the offer made by the golf club and asked Mayor Michelle Rogers to set up a meeting with four members from the golf club, two city council members and two airport commissioners, along with both attorneys and the airport engineer to try again to reach an agreement that will solve the problem.

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