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Wilsonville will be included on advisory committee, aviation director says

PMG FILE PHOTO - The first Aurora Airport master planning process in a decade is slated to begin in coming months.

Amid a legal fight over the validity of the most recent Aurora Airport Master Plan update, the Oregon Department of Aviation is planning to begin a new planning effort soon.

According to ODA Director Betty Stansbury, the department will receive over $900,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration to complete a new master plan update, which will be the first since the disputed process took place about a decade ago.

"The FAA encourages (but does not require) airports to update their master plans about once every ten years, and ODA supports that position as a standard best practice," an FAA letter read.

The department plans to ask the Oregon Aviation Board to allow it to move forward with the update in the next two months and indicated the process will take about 16 to 18 months to complete.

The city of Wilsonville has long questioned the validity of the 2012 master plan, which included a runway extension project that Wilsonville officials have warned could lead to bigger jets flying into the airport as well as more traffic and noise. It also argues that the 2012 update violated a number of statewide planning laws, and a current challenge to the plan is under deliberation at the Oregon Court of Appeals after the Land Use Board of Appeals dismissed the city and other entities' case.

The city also has advocated for recently proposed legislation that would require the ODA to take a number of steps, including forming a new intergovernmental agreement that includes the city, undergoing a new master planning process and creating a plan for airport annexation into the city of Aurora prior to the progression of expansion projects like the runway extension.

The update announced by ODA will include a reevaluation of the need for a runway extension.

"The timing of this update is in no way related to, or affected by, current litigation or proposed legislation. Rather, it is consistent with how planning is done for the federally funded public use airports in Oregon," an ODA letter read.

Stansbury said the new update, as well as a tree removal project, are taking priority over the runway extension and that the forwarding of that project will depend on federal funding, which she said would be unlikely to come prior to the advancement of the master plan update. The ODA previously applied for a $37 million grant from the FAA to complete the extension, but that application was not accepted.

Stansbury also said the city of Wilsonville, along with the cities of Canby and Aurora and Clackamas and Marion counties, will have a seat on the master plan advisory committee. That committee doesn't have legal authority to decide which projects will be included in the update.

"We certainly look at the input from the advisory committee in determining what improvement the airport needs," Stansbury said.

City of Wilsonville attorney Barbara Jacobson said the decision to begin the master plan update and the inclusion of Wilsonville on the committee were steps in the right direction.

Still, she added: "I think we'll have to wait and see how that committee gets set up and what kind of documentation is offered to ensure we will be involved in the process."

As for the legal efforts, Jacobson said the city could come to an agreement with the ODA that would lead to the tabling of a current Clackamas County Circuit Court case (which Jacobson said has proceeded to some degree recently but has mostly been put on hold) if the two sides can come to an agreement. However, those discussions have yet to take place.

"It's always been our position since the very beginning, before we filed any litigation, that the main thing we were looking for was to restart the process, because we don't think it was done legally or properly. … If we come to an agreement that this was a reset on the process, that would certainly make us reconsider," Jacobson said.

Stansbury said the new master plan will include "extensive public involvement" including "multiple opportunities for the public to participate and be a part of the process through open houses and public meetings."

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