April 1, 2009 Edition

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Golf club lawyer files
response to motion

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge Golf Club's legal problems with the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport and the City of Walnut Ridge continue as no mutual agreement has been reached outside a courtroom.

On March 23, the golf club's attorney, C.W. Knauts of Piggott, filed a response to the airport and city's motion for summary judgment, which was filed on March 3 by their attorney, David W. Cahoon of Jonesboro.

The motion for summary judgment was filed in an attempt to have the judge decide the outcome of the dispute without the necessity of a trial or jury trial.

The judge will set a time for both sides to present their pleadings and then make a ruling, according to Terry Ryan, golf club spokesman.

"He can send the case to a jury trial, decide on a change of venue, send it to federal court or rule on it himself," Ryan said. "However, his decision can be appealed by either side."

At this time, a date to appear before the judge has not been set.

In a statement to The Times Dispatch, Dan Coker, chairman of the airport's board of directors, said, "It's unfortunate that a solution to this problem has not been found. The airport commission has made several proposals to the golf club for an alternate location, but each time we reach an agreement, it is rescinded by the club.

"In addition, some members of the commission have offered a substantial amount of their own money to offset some of the expense to move certain parts of the golf course to another location on the airport property," he said.

Ryan said the golf club has explored every available option to use existing property contiguous to the golf course, and even had a golf course designer look at it.

"There is just not enough land offered by the airport to make it work for the golf course. There is no guarantee how moving the holes would be paid for even if there was enough land. We have never rescinded anything from the airport because no acceptable offer has been made. And no land or money offer has ever been made to us in writing," he said.

"We heard at one point that $100,000 had been offered to us, but that amount wouldn't pay for a golf course, and again we never received anything in writing to confirm that anyway," Ryan said.

Coker said the members of the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.

"All commission members shall comply with or cause to be complied with all civil air regulations of the federal and state government as they pertain to the operation of the airport. Airports, such as ours, developed by or improved with federal funds are obligated to prevent the growth or establishment of obstructions in the aerial approaches to the airport.

"Our airport was inspected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2006 and was found to be out of compliance, mainly because of the location of several parts of the golf course near runway 18-36.

"Commission members are obligated to remedy this situation. It's a safety issue members of the airport commission cannot ignore."

Speaking of the ongoing dispute, Ryan said that whatever the final outcome, there will be no winners.

"Everyone loses in this. There are hurt feelings among friends and neighbors, both side have spent money on attorney's fees and many of us have put in countless hours trying to find a way to coexist. It's a shame it ever came to this. I feel like it could and should have been resolved a long time ago."

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