SilverWing development lawsuit lands in lower court
Bonner County’s alleged promises crucial to case
Mike McLeanJanuary 29th, 2015
A federal lawsuit filed against Bonner County by the developer of a fly-in community at the Sandpoint Airport, has landed back in the Idaho state court system.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge remanded the case back to Idaho’s 1st District Court, in Bonner County, last week, after earlier dismissing other claims that fell under federal jurisdiction.
The judge ruled, however, that legal issues remain unanswered in regard to Bonner County’s alleged representations that the developer, SilverWing at Sandpoint LLC, relied on to begin construction and start marketing its fly-in development.
“The original basis for this court’s … jurisdiction no longer exists,” Lodge says in the remand order. “The only claim remaining in this case now is a state law claim for promissory estoppel.”
The remand puts the case back in the state court where SilverWing originally filed the case in 2012, before it was elevated to a federal case.
No further court dates have been set yet.
Scott Bauer, a civil attorney in the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office, claims, however, that SilverWing doesn’t have much of a case left.
Bauer says the county is considering requesting expenses and attorney fees of $1 million for defending itself against the claims that were dismissed in federal court.
Though parts of the case have been dismissed, Michael Mileski, a principal in SilverWing, says the judge agreed the main issue in the litigation is still at question.
“The essence of the whole case is the estoppel claim,” Mileski says.
He declines to disclose the amount of damages that SilverWing is seeking.
In the estoppel claim, SilverWing contends the county assured the developer that it had no plans to reconfigure the Sandpoint Airport when SilverWing bought the 18-acre development site, near the southwest edge of the airport’s main runway.
The developer had planned a fly-in community with 44 residential units, each with attached hangars.
SilverWing broke ground on the development in 2007 after it received land-use approvals from Bonner County and the city of Sandpoint. Bonner County operates the Sandpoint Airport, which lies within Sandpoint city boundaries.
The developer constructed a taxiway for future SilverWing fly-in residents and also developed a model duplex, streets, and other infrastructure for the subdivision.
Bonner County later notified SilverWing that it might have to move its taxiway 60 feet to the west to accommodate potential improvements to the airport as required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
SilverWing claims in the lawsuit that such a move would reduce or eliminate prime lots in the development, putting the feasibility of the development at risk.
Mileski says SilverWing, which claims it has invested more than $16 million in the development, will seek monetary damages for costs and lost sales brought about by the uncertainty of the future configuration of the taxiway.
“They approved us to build it and later said we shouldn’t have built it there,” Mileski says of Bonner County. “We believe we’ve not been dealt with fairly.”
Bonner County asserts in earlier defense motions, however, that SilverWing failed to exercise due diligence as a developer when it bought the property on the cusp of recession, and that it should have known about FAA concerns about the airport configuration.