Land-use watchdog sues to block Aurora Airport expansion
A proposed expansion of the Aurora State Airport violates the state's land-use law, imperils prime farmland and wasn't properly approved, two conservation groups argue in a lawsuit.
1,000 Friends of Oregon and Friends of French Prairie have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to invalidate plans by the Oregon Department of Aviation and the Oregon Aviation Board to expand the runway at the Aurora State Airport by 1,000 feet.
The Aurora State Airport is a 144-acre public airport near the borders of Marion and Clackamas counties and is used for training and business jets.
Betty Stansbury, the department's director, said that the proposed extension has been planned for the airport for 20 years. She said that aircraft using the airport carry fewer passengers or less fuel or cargo because of the length of the current runway doesn't support the added weight. "So it's really a safety issue for us," she said.
Stansbury said that there are no plans for the airport to accommodate commercial airlines. She said that the extension is years away as the department completes a process that includes an environmental assessment and public input.
Neither conservation group responded to requests for comment.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 30 in Marion County Circuit Court, argues that the expanded airport would extend the runway on to land zoned for exclusive farm use. The lawsuit also states that the Oregon Aviation Board didn't approve the airport's master plan and has given shifting explanations over the plan's status.
The lawsuit follows a similar appeal the groups brought to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, a state panel that reviews land-use decisions. The appeal relied on a letter from Stansbury concerning the master plan. The board dismissed the appeal on grounds that the letter wasn't a land-use decision.
Martha Meeker, the board's chair, declined to comment, citing the litigation.
Stansbury said that the department owns the land for the proposed runway extension. She said that it would have to acquire some additional land for a required buffer near the runway, which she said will remain in agricultural production.
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