CARLSBAD — Time is ticking before the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan update is sent before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
However, the city did not reveal its strategy or methods for those negotiations, opting for a closed session to formulate their plans. The plan, meanwhile, will go before the County Board of Supervisors as early as next month, or in the next several months.
Denver-based attorney Peter Kirsch of Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell, though, did lay out several “action items” the city and county could use to strengthen commitments and obligations. In the summer, his firm responded to the plan with a second comment letter citing numerous concerns over inaccurate methodologies, data, transparency, environmental and noise concerns, to name a few.
“Airport governance and decision making is really important to give the community the confidence the kind of challenges we are facing today don’t happen in the future,” Kirsch said. “There’s a lot of distrust in how decisions are made with the airport. A lot of questions about the role of the city and of the county with regard, not just operations of the airport, but the development of the airport and most importantly the impact of the airport on the community.”
First, airport and governance is a major sticking point and the recommendations include creating a Joint Powers Agency with Carlsbad, the county and most likely other North County cities. Other alternatives include creating an airport commission or amending the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee to include representatives appointed by the city.
Additionally, other concerns from the city’s comment letter concerning the DEIR include impact mitigation and land use, noise, transportation, biological resources, greenhouse gasses, aesthetic and visual resources and hazards. Finally, information and transparency is another topic and the city is pushing for the county to submit monthly reports detailing noise monitoring.
“To be perfectly blunt about it, there is a distrust of the county and the information the county is conveying about its master plan and its EIR,” Kirsch added. “If there’s one result of this, it should be the county should be more transparent. Not just to the city, but to the residents.”
The council approved to include adding noise “monitors as necessary” as the county plans to replace at least one monitor. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher pushed for the council to include the monitoring, while Councilman Michael Schumacher (no relation) ask for the language to not be as finite as the airport may need more than one monitor.
As a result, the city decided it was the best path forward. Mayor Matt Hall said to avoid confusion between what noise is and to whom, data is important to make decisions in the future.
Residents, meanwhile, continued to turn their ire toward the county for, what many said, has been a historically devious entity wielding unchecked power to grow the airport to a size not compatible with the city and neighboring residents.
Several noted how the county’s previous master plan in 1997, and representatives, said one thing, then did another. Transparency, several said, has created a deep mistrust of the county and its true intentions.
“The reality is we still don’t have answers about the expansion,” said Hope Nelson of the group Citizens for a Friendly Airport.