By Cameron Rasmusson
The Bonner County vs. SilverWing trial concluded Tuesday night with a jury awarding $250,000 to SilverWing.
After a full week of testimony, evidence analysis and deliberation, the verdict comes as a vindication for SilverWing executives, who maintain that Bonner County backed out of a through-the-fence agreement for a fly-in residential project near Sandpoint Airport, resulting in financial damage.
“We’re just happy that the jurors heard our story and knew that we had been treated unfairly,” said developer Michael Mileski.
According to Bonner County Commissioner Cary Kelly, the county and its legal counsel are investigating the prospect of appealing the verdict. If the verdict is not reversed upon appeal, county taxpayers may bear the brunt of the damages because land use litigation isn’t covered by insurance.
However, Kelly takes heart from a comparatively light award—SilverWing sought as much as $20 million in damages. He said the verdict also stings less when weighed against a judgment earlier this year granting the county nearly $750,000 in legal fees.
“We’re still half-a-million up on this,” he said
The legal battle dates back to an alleged through-the-fence access agreement between Bonner County and SilverWing at Sandpoint Airport. This agreement prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to list Sandpoint Airport as out of compliance in 2008. SilverWing developers sued Bonner County, claiming the government body backed away from promises. They also said the county was not forthright about plans to move a runway.
Despite the courtroom clashes, county officials are willing to work with SilverWing in the effort to move its development forward.
“We’ve always tried to be a good neighbor and work together,” Kelly said.
Likewise, Mileski is hopeful that SilverWing still has a future in Bonner County.
“This is still a place we love, and we’d still like to move forward with this project,” he said.
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