The Coast News Group
McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. File photo

Airport vote grounded, city looks for paths forward


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.


Kris Wright July 4, 2018 at 3:59 pm

As a citizen of Carlsbad, I too think a change of leadership is critical. I attended the meeting and spoke to have a Joint Powers Agreement which was initiated a decade ago but was never ratified. This JPA would include cities like San Marcos and Vista and allow cities and residents (if done correctly) allow us a voice in this process.

Right now, the County does not feel it has to listen to anyone except the FAA, and can expand the airport runway whether we like it or not. We know that if the runway remains the same length as it is now, it is safe (as stated by the expert attorneys mentioned above), and from our history that commercial passenger airlines can operate at CRX as it is now. In fact, the owner of the new airlines coming to CRX stated at that meeting that his jets can operate without an expansion of the runway.

Our current mayor has been plotting a long time to have this airport expanded. He needs to go. Vote for Cori Schumacher for Carlsbad Mayor!

hope nelson June 24, 2018 at 12:32 am

Before the PEIR questions are answered by the County, Mayor Matt Hall continues to pitch for the Airport expansion. See Carlsbad Life article posted to Mayor Hall’s Facebook page. Shouldn’t the Mayor be holding his opinion until all the information is in and all the questions are answered? I agree with Addie!

Addie June 23, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Citizens’ suggestions? We already know what Hall and his buddies think of those. There is only one elected official who actually cares what WE think…her name is Cori Schumacher and she will be the next Mayor of Carlsbad. Things are going to change for the better.

Hope Nelson June 22, 2018 at 10:01 am

Nice reporting on the Attorney perspective…but what about the citizen suggestions? For myself…check out California Pacific Airline, getting ready to fly out of Carlsbad, note, WITHOUT A RUNWAY EXTENSION. Thanks again to KKR and the City for this workshop.

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