Remember the Rubik’s cube? The twistable puzzle-cube with multi-colored sides. When the puzzle is solved, each cube side has only one color. Identifying your rights to challenge a Palomar Airport project is somewhat like unraveling a Rubik’s cube. The path is confusing. The FAA and County do not make it easy.
Public Opposition: the History
In Blog #4, we learned that a Carlsbad ordinance allows voters to vote on Palomar Airport expansion. But only if the expansion requires an amendment to the Carlsbad zoning or planning laws.
The Ordinance started as a citizen initiative. In 1979, the County wanted a second Palomar runway on land north of the airport. When concerned Carlsbad citizens petitioned the Carlsbad City Council, the council saw the writing on the wall.
The County then forgot the second runway. But the County did not forget its expansion plans. Fast forward twenty-five years.
Citizens Asleep at the Switch #1?
In the mid-2000s, a curious thing happened. The County was allowed to relocate its on-airport parking to newly acquired land off the airport. Without a vote of the people.
When it was first adopted, the Carlsbad ordinance was viewed as preventing any use of off-airport property for airport purposes without a public vote. But in the mid 2000s the County convinced the Carlsbad Council that the off-airport parking was permitted by the City general plan and zoning. Hence, no vote.
Lesson 1? If enough people express their concerns about Palomar Airport expansion, Council members will listen. Their jobs depend on it.
Lesson 2? When the pressure on politicians fades, so does their resolve.
Citizens Asleep at the Switch #2?
Within the next 4 months, the Carlsbad City Council and the Board of Supervisors will need to decide whether Palomar Airport should remain a “Basic Transport General Aviation” Airport as Carlsbad Conditional Use Permit [CUP] 172 now provides.
In Blog #4, we learned that Carlsbad granted CUP 172 to the County to operate Palomar as a limited use airport. Carlsbad staff – when commenting on the FAA California Pacific Airlines [CPA] environmental assessment three months ago - stated that CUP 172 would have to be amended to allow the substantial increase in passenger traffic that CPA proposes.
Will the County Board of Supervisors request such a CUP 172 modification? Will Carlsbad grant such a modification? Will the grant require a change in the Carlsbad zoning and/or planning laws and hence a vote of the people? Or will Carlsbad simply act by council vote as it did when approving the airport’s off-airport parking in the mid-2000s? What California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA] analysis will be prepared for such an action?
Citizens Asleep at the Switch #3?
The County’s 15-month study to lengthen the Palomar Airport runway from 4900 feet to 6000 feet ends soon. Based on its history, the County will likely try to extend the runway by preparing a CEQA negative declaration rather than the required Environmental Impact Report. Then the County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve the runway extension.
Based on Exhibit A to Conditional Use Permit 172, the County will assert that no Carlsbad approval is required. Why? Because Exhibit A gives the County substantial discretion to develop its existing Palomar site. Such substantial discretion may in fact exist as long as the County is not converting the airport from a basic transport general aviation airport to an airport for regularly scheduled larger planes handling commercial airline passengers.
So what should citizens opposed to unlimited Palomar Airport expansion do? For beginners, insist that the FAA, County, and Carlsbad properly and timely disclose their intentions to the public. Then, insist these agencies prepare proper environmental analyses.
Next Week: Blog #7 Palomar Airport Expansion Issues: Sidestepping Palomar Airport Environmental Requirements.