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Bonner County taps emergency money to fight federal lawsuit

A Cessna Citation 501 fits inside the hangar of the model home at the SilverWing fly-in community in August 2012. The plane has a wingspan of about 53 feet, said developer Mike Mileski. Courtesy of SilverWing.

A Cessna Citation 501 fits inside the hangar of the model home at the SilverWing fly-in community in August 2012. The plane has a wingspan of about 53 feet, said developer Mike Mileski. Courtesy of SilverWing.

Bonner County commissioners have declared a financial emergency to allow the county to use money from a contingency account to fend off a federal lawsuit.

Commissioners made the decision Oct. 16  so the county can use money in the justice fund. The county budgeted $400,000 in the current fiscal year and will now have another $450,000 for a total of $850,000.

Developers of an upscale, fly-in housing development called Silverwing at Sandpoint sued the county in May 2012 contending they had not been treated fairly.

Commissioner Mike Nielsen said that an adverse judgment could cost taxpayers up to $26 million.

“It’s the nature of the litigation and the risk is so high that we have to fight it aggressively,” he said “We cannot afford to ignore this litigation.”

Silverwing at Sandpoint developers said county officials backtracked on a through-the-fence access agreement and were not upfront about plans to relocate a runway.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages greater than $10,000 and a jury trial. Nielsen said a trial is planned in federal court in the spring.

Silverwing developers said they spent $6.1 million preparing to build the development.

But the Federal Aviation Administration told the county the airport wasn’t in compliance with federal grant assurances having to do with the through-the-fence access. The lawsuit said the county then adopted a revised airport plan moving a runway and making other upgrades.

The subdivision is planned to have 45 residences that include aircraft hangars.

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