CARLSBAD — The long running debate about the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan update will continue for several more months.
During a public forum on June 19 at the Faraday Center, city staff and attorneys Peter Kirsch and Sarah Rockwell of Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell law firm in Denver outlined the next steps for the city and residents to move forward with San Diego County. The city hired the Denver firm earlier this year to review the master plan and analyze options for the city.
The county released some sections of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on June 21. The public has 45 days to comment, followed by the county responding to each comment before the master plan goes before the Board of Supervisors, according to Jason Haber, assistant to the Carlsbad city manager.
One goal of the workshop, Haber added, was for residents and staff to collaborate on pathways forward and work with the county to find solutions to the many issues with the update.
One of those, which many residents have championed for months, is a public vote through ordinance section 21.53.015. However, Kirsch and Rockwell said their conclusions do not support a vote.
“Start with the question of ‘is there an expansion,’” Rockwell explained. Even with if you say yes … you still end up with the question is there a General Plan zoning changing or other legislative act necessary to authorize the expansion, and our conclusion is still no. In our view it’s not an expansion because they are not expanding the airport boundaries.”
Also, the conditional use permit (CUP 172) needed by the county from the city does not include the runway. Rockwell said she is “not sure why that is the case.” Since there are no new land use proposals in the master plan, a vote or any other action under CUP 172 would be difficult to challenge.
If a vote were to occur, the attorneys said it could invalidate the ordinance, plus the county, which owns and operates the airport, is under no obligation to follow the result.
City Attorney Celia Brewer, meanwhile, said there are virtually no options for the city to “bind” the county to any city action.
“The city has limited legal authority inside aeronautical areas,” Kirsch added.
Two of the most controversial issues under consideration are shifting the runway north by 123 feet to add a larger buffer between the runway and taxiway; and extending the runway between 200 and 800 feet for a maximum length of 5,700 feet. The runway is currently 4,897 feet long.
Many residents feel the shift will allow for much larger jets, while others said airport facilities becoming larger also qualify as expansion, although the boundary of the airport is not being extended.
Additionally, the airport, which is classified as B2, is already servicing some larger jets above the B2 classification. The master plan proposes to reclassify the airport to allow larger jets, such as 50-seat and 70-seat airplanes.
Even with all the issues, Kirsch and Rockwell opened the forum for residents to suggest strategies to work with the county and how aggressive the city should be in those efforts.
Restricting Stage 2 or 3 jets, such as those allowed or that will be allowed if the master plan is approved, Kirsch said, is “very unlikely. He said the Federal Aviation Administration, since 1990, has made it clear they won’t act.
Kirsch said some options could include a land use compatibility program, working with the county and Federal Aviation Administration, restricting operations, flight track abatement, and changing flight tracks and arrival and departure procedures.