McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. File photo
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Carlsbad, County settle Airport Master Plan lawsuit

CARLSBAD — The city and County of San Diego announced late March 27 the two entities have settled a lawsuit filed by the city over the environmental impact report regarding the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan.

According to the settlement, which is effective March 27, the city and county reached a 20-year agreement providing a framework for collaboration concerning airport issues.

The Master Plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 10, 2018, while the city filed its suit on Dec. 9.

The council voted 4-1 in favor of the settlement, with Councilwoman Cori Schumacher voting no.

The airport is owned and operated by the county, but the Master Plan proposal brought numerous concerns and critics from residents in Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos.

Many concerns revolve around noise, voluntary flight hours and a suspicion the county would expand the footprint of the airport; although no specific details were in the master plan.

The Board of Supervisors approved a re-classification of the airport from a B-II facility to D-III, repositioning the taxiway and runway and lengthening the runway by up to 800 feet.

Now, a collaborative approach will be used to address the city, county and Federal Aviation Administration’s legal authorities while minimizing the impacts on those communities.

“In settling the lawsuit, the city and county will avoid a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle that would not ultimately address all of the issues of concern to the local community, regardless of the outcome of the suit, according to the agreement,” according to a statement on the City of Carlsbad’s website.

In exchange for the provisions in the agreement, the City of Carlsbad agreed to withdraw its lawsuit and stop the process of changing zoning requirements on land surrounding the airport, which the county had opposed.

According to the city’s website, some of the provisions of the agreement include:

  • A formalized acknowledgement that in the beginning of this year the county changed the composition of the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee to include greater representation from the North County cities.
  • A quarterly meeting among city staff, county staff and staff from surrounding cities to discuss airport-related issues of mutual interest.
  • A statement that the county has immunities from city building and zoning ordinances and that those immunities may also apply to projects by airport lessees and contractors. This statement also specifies that the county’s continued voluntary compliance with a previous conditional use permit issued by the city is not considered a waiver of these immunities. 

The agreement specifies the city and county will work cooperatively on the implementation of the Airport Master Plan, including:

  • The county will implement all design features, mitigation and other measures it committed to in the EIR, in the response to comments and in the mitigation monitoring report.
  • The city will have an opportunity to review and provide input into landscaping on slopes and retaining walls on county property, as part of the master plan’s implementation.
  • The county will provide an opportunity for the city to review and provide input on major development projects initiated by the county at the airport, its tenants and contractors.
  • The county will coordinate with the city on construction noise mitigation measures.
  • The county will continue efforts to minimize the effects of aircraft noise on the community through pilot education, the Voluntary Noise Abatement Procedures, and outreach to flight schools, pilot groups and airport tenants throughout the region.
  • The county will use data from four noise monitors to inform the public about specific noise issues and discuss noise concerns with the city at the quarterly meetings. Two noise monitors previously existed, and at the beginning of the year, the county began the process of installing two additional monitors on the north and west sides of the runway. Installation is expected to be completed this summer.

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