CARLSBAD — The fight still rages on regarding the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan.
Specifically, Citizens for a Friendly Airport will not drop its lawsuit over the environmental impact report (EIR).
The group filed the suit last year, noting concerns over San Diego County’s methodology and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) findings.
The City of Carlsbad also sued the county, but the two settled the case on March 27.
However, Frank Sung and Shirley Anderson, of C4FA, and said they are disappointed in the City Council’s decision to settle.
The council voted 4-1 to settle, with Councilwoman Cori Schumacher voting against.
Sung said it is hard to process why the two newest members of the council — Priya Bhat-Patel and Barbara Hamilton — agreed to the deal. In addition, Sung railed against the city outside legal council, Denver-based Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell, saying the city received bad counsel.
Sung said the issue could be the next Measure A, a reference to the highly divisive and controversial proposal for a mall on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which was defeated in a special election in February 2016.
“The city got bad legal advice,” Sung said. “I’m surprised how the two new (councilmembers) were duped and caved.”
Hamilton did not respond to several message requests before press time. Bhat-Patel released the following statement:
“I am committed to protecting our environment and the quality of life of our residents. In that light, I will continue to advocate against the transformation of Palomar Airport into another John Wayne Airport. With this decision, I look forward to working with the County of San Diego in a better working relationship to ensure that Carlsbad residents will be prioritized in decision making. I will continue to advocate for my fellow residents and I know that my decision provides Carlsbad a meaningful seat at the table to represent the voices of our community. As someone who values and upholds to a high standard of ethics, I have met with numerous community members to discuss my decision making. The settlement agreement will be brought back before City Council so that our community can have an active dialogue with our Council and staff to get any questions answered. This is tentatively scheduled for May 7th. I look forward to continuing to work alongside my fellow residents and colleagues to protect our community.”
However, during the City Council’s April 16 meeting discussing its legislative platform, Hamilton said the city should be cognizant of House Resolution 976, a federal bill aimed at studying the health effects from air noise and pollution.
The group has no plans to withdraw its suit, which is being litigated by Corey Briggs of San Diego. Sung and Anderson said they are concerned over a number of issues including noise, pollution, increase operations, zoning and planning and the re-classification of the airport to a DIII from a BII.
Additionally, Sung and Anderson said they are concerned over the lack of a public vote, since the city’s ordinance passed in 1980 was a citizen’s initiative and which Sung said trumps local and state laws.
Another problem is the lengthening of the runway and the county using its land across El Camino Real and Palomar Airport Road as auxiliary facilities for the airport, according to Sung.
“Frankly, this City/County Palomar airport settlement was done over a three-and-a-half hour closed door, secret meeting with no community input,” Sung said. “Now that we’ve read it and digested it, it is so one-sided and some of the terms may even be illegal.”
Another source of contention is the “expansion” and its ever-evolving meaning, the two said.
But perhaps the biggest issue is the prospect of McClellan-Palomar Airport being used to offload traffic from San Diego International Airport, they said.
Sung said the two biggest sources of traffic would be private jets and freight. With a longer runway, the airport would be able to handle such freight traffic.
Anderson, who is a private pilot and potential alternate for the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee (PAAC), pointed to comments from Bill Horn, the former San Diego County Board of Supervisors representative for District 5, which covers much of North County including Carlsbad.
Horn long wanted a longer run and more robust airport, she said, and also noted how the PAAC publicly voted against the re-classification, but at the Oct. 10, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting all the members supported, as individuals, an upgrade.
Both Sung and Anderson said they feel something is still amiss, which is why C4FA is continuing its lawsuit.
As for noise and voluntary flight hours, those battles are a much steeper hill to climb as it requires the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress to act. Anderson said there is movement at the congressional level with H.R. 976.
Still, she admitted, it’s a long shot Congress acts. For now, pilots will have to voluntarily be “good neighbors,” as there is no enforcement for when a pilot can take off or land at the airport.