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What is an avigation easement?
An avigation easement, also called an aviation easement, is an agreement that compels property owners to cede air rights over their property to the government. This agreement restricts owners from building above a specific height and waives their rights to file a suit against owners and pilots of low-flying aircraft and limits the liability of aircraft operators for causing a nuisance.
An easement is the right to use designated parts of another person’s land for special circumstances, such as gaining access when necessary. Easement can be both granted by the government to organizations like utility companies or used by the government to create public space, such as a sidewalk.
An avigation easement is much the same, except the easement applies not to the land but to the area above the land, or air space. After agreeing to be compensated in return for the easement, property owners lose the right to file claims against the operators of aircraft above their land. Avigation easement also dictates what actions are prohibited by the property owner, which include anything that could interfere with the pilot or obstruct the movement. This applies both to airspace as well as the area around an airport’s runway, which, legally, the operators must open up in the case of an error in taking off or landing.
It is assumed that avigation easement could cause some drop in property value, whether by restricting building heights or removing trees. An appraiser will be used to determine how much value the property owner will lose in order to get her the right amount of compensation.
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Avigation easement example
William and Kate own a home in a cul-de-sac near the airport. They have a large man-made pond on their land that attracts a lot of birds. The local government wants to expand the runway of the airport, and it needs that airspace free of obstructions to meet legal regulations regarding aircraft landings. The birds flocking to the couple’s pond could endanger aircraft, so an avigation easement is obtained. An appraiser determines the pond is worth $250,000 to the value of the home, so the government tells William and Kate to remove the pond and in return it will compensate them for that amount.