Have we chosen to control growth? Yes. The comprehensive plan, zoning and the growth management act control where and what kind of development will occur. The position of Dowl, the planning consultant hired by the port to produce an airport master plan, is that they are doing a “stand-alone” plan. I say no to that notion. As a community, we get to choose how development occurs. The airport does not exist in a vacuum. In spite of the port’s position, I think the FAA would be sympathetic to concerns of the community.
The constraints for planning identified by Dowl include:
1. Safety is one of the main drivers due to the size and frequency of aircraft. The caravan used by FedEx and Kenmore were apparently allowed by the FAA as an exception, and now the airport must expand to accommodate them.
2. Projection of increased use that puts the airport into a higher B2 category of use.
3. A big driver seems to be making a case for more FAA dollars. In addition, Dowl has emphasized that the port may or may not be liable for past FAA grants if the master plan is not adopted.
As for safety, why wasn’t an alternative developed that addressed basic safety issues without all the other site development, such as a new relocated terminal, more tie-downs, new cargo facilities and additional private hangers? Build and they will come. As a community, we get to decide how and where we want to grow. More is not better.
As far as the possible liability for past grants, why not confer with the FAA to determine their position? The alarmist “may be liable” is not a strong argument.
The port is currently seeking more FAA funds, possibly creating more liability for Orcas! Taxation without representation! Seeking maximum FAA funding seems like a conflict of interest for Dowl, which will be looking at future Eastsound airport work.
There is time to step back and make this a community-oriented planning effort, not a “stand-alone” plan as described by the consultant. It will save a lot of grief in the future.