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Austin leaders approve using eminent domain to shut down airport's south terminal

The company that operates the south terminal is urged the council to vote against closing it.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin leaders approved using eminent domain to take over and shut down the south terminal at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Simply put, eminent domain is the right of a government to take private property for public use.

Currently, the terminal is privately owned. But City officials approved using eminent domain to shut the terminal down so that more gates can be added to the main Barbara Jordan Terminal.

To add those gates, the airport will need to move plane taxiways. Experts told City officials that it would be safer, more efficient and more cost-effective to close the south terminal to make room for those taxiways.

RELATED: Company that operates South Terminal at Austin airport rejects City’s offer

The company that operates the south terminal, Lonestar Airport Holdings, is urged the council to vote against closing it. The City previously offered to take over operation of the terminal, but the company refused the $1.95 million offer, calling it "offensive."

"Closure of the South Terminal will kill ultra-low-cost carrier service from Austin, challenged by higher operating fees and inadequate capacity at the main terminal. Options for price sensitive travelers will disappear in our market," said Jeff Pearse, CEO of LoneStar Airport Holdings. "The airport’s pursuit of eminent domain ignores the 40-year lease obligation to LoneStar and will result in years of expensive, time-consuming litigation, delaying expansion plans even further and sending a signal to every business in Austin that making major investments alongside the city is a dangerous bet. This isn’t eminent domain. It is the taking of a business."

According to the council's Thursday agenda, it approved a resolution "authorizing the filing of eminent domain proceedings and payment to acquire the property interest needed for the Airport Expansion and Development Program" to accommodate the relocation of airport taxiways.

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