To the chagrin of some Wilsonville residents, the Oregon Aviation Board completes Aurora Airport planning
Unhappy with the Oregon Department of Aviation's decision to hold a public hearing regarding Aurora Airport planning in Sunriver, which is roughly 174 miles from their residences, Charbonneau citizens didn't relinquish their opportunity to be heard.
About 10 of them filed into a Charbonneau Country Club conference room with a microphone, video recorder and conference call technology to voice their concerns about the Aurora Airport Planning process and potential negative effects of airport expansion.
Their pleas, though, were to no avail.
That's because the Oregon Aviation Board subsequently unanimously voted to adopt the Findings of Compatibility and Compliance in support of the ODA's State Agency Coordination Program for the 2012 Aurora State Airport Master Plan Update at a meeting in Sunriver Thursday, Oct. 31.
This effectively means that the master plan is current and projects supported by the plan can go forward. Airport proponents viewed the Board's decision as a step in the right direction and validated ongoing efforts to fund a 1,000 foot runway extension.
"The Board's action was affirmation of everything we've been saying," said Aurroa Aviation President Bruce Bennett in an Aurora Airport Improvement Association press release. "The Master Plan process was a good process, that the proposed runway extension is a necessary safety improvement, and that the Master Plan with the proposed runway extension meets all state land use goals and will not infringe on local farm land."
The ODA initially posted that the board would consider the adoption of the master plan at the meeting, but later changed the framing — to the frustration of the City of Wilsonville and Friends of French Prairie, both of which have long been critical of Aurora Airport planning.
According to ODA Director Betty Stansbury, the department is undergoing a process to ensure that state airports are in compliance with the state agency coordinating program, which agencies affecting land use must adopt.
In 2011, when the master plan allegedly was approved, the ODA had not developed its own state agency coordinating agreement since it had become its own agency in 1999. So the coordinating program decision at Thursday's meeting was related to that initiative.
The issue of master plan approval arose earlier this year when Stansbury wrote in a letter to Friends of French Prairie attorney Jeffrey Kleinman stating that the board had never approved the 2011 master plan. However, she reversed that stance in another letter later this year.
The ODA's current position is that the master plan was approved in 2011. According to ODA attorney Lucinda Jackson, the department's minutes, which fail to show approval of the master plan, are inaccurate and that audio of the meeting proves that the master plan had been approved. The audio, she said, originally had been misfiled.
"You can hear that the board approved the master plan," OAB Chair Martha Meeker said following the meeting.
However, the City of Wilsonville contends that the supposed ODA approval was simply to send the draft of the master plan to the Federal Aviation Administration. And the transcript of the meeting seems to back up that claim as contractor Raines Anderson from WH Pacific said that the ODA would bring the plan to the FAA before bringing it back to the board for approval.
"The board's adoption of the final chapter of the Aurora Airport Master Plan on October 27, 2011 was the first step to send the Airport Layout Plan to the FAA for its approval so final adoption could then occur. The final adoption of the entire Master Plan never took place," a memo the City sent for the record reads.
On the other hand, there is evidence to support Meeker's assertion. At the end of the meeting, Chair Mark Gardiner said: "OK, I will entertain a motion to approve the master plan submitted and fire it off to the FAA." She then described the motion as a "major milestone passed."
In her testimony, Wilsonville City Councilor Charlotte Lehan stated that a new master plan needs to be adopted and that the process should involve the City of Wilsonville, City of Aurora, Clackamas County and the Oregon Department of Agriculture while other Charbonneau residents also criticized the ODA's master planning process.
"The history of the development of this master plan is, if anything, a study in how not to comply with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development's goal one (for) citizen involvement," Charbonneau resident Bill Wallace said.
The central component hovering in the background of the questions over land-use planning is the proposed runway extension. The project is supported by the 2011 master plan, but was not supported in the previous master plan, and the ODA has unsuccessfully tried to obtain funding to move forward with it.
However, Charbonneau residents who already complain about loud planes flying over their community are worried that it would exacerbate noise issues while others are concerned about impacts to agriculture and traffic.
"We already have to listen to loud jets and helicopters in the late hours of the day and night. The airport doesn't have proper roadway intersections or signals to support increased traffic," Charbonneau resident Tom Kells said.
Lehan added: "Urban encroachment and expansion of the airport undercuts this (agricultural) network in French Prairie and puts this industry in parallel."
Meeker said the ODA likely will conduct an environmental assessment regarding the runway extension in the next one to two years that will consider these factors.
"I do understand the complaints from Charbonneau. We can't dismiss them. There's noise over the airport. We need to minimize the noise. We need to continue to refine the data and get the information out there as best we can to all the interests around the airport. That's why we look to the environmental assessment," she said.
At the same time, Friends of French Prairie recently filed an appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals contesting Stansbury's letter asserting that the master plan had been approved. Bennett, the Aurora Airport Improvement Association, Tony Helbing and Wilson Construction have filed a motion to dismiss the appeal.
Ben Williams, the president of Friends of French Prairie, said the group might consider filing another appeal of the approval of the state agency coordinating program decision. Both Williams and the City of Wilsonville contend this program needs to be approved prior to the adoption of a master plan rather than before.
The City's memo states "it will be the City's position on appeal, if necessary, that the alleged Master Plan had to properly apply and address the Statewide Planning Goals and address compatibility with local and impacted comprehensive plans and land-use regulations at the time it was considered for adoption and that it never did so."
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