CARLSBAD — Once again the city of Carlsbad and the county of San Diego are at an impasse regarding McClellan-Palomar Airport following the rejection of two resolutions on Dec. 17.
The City Council voted against two resolutions to retroactively approve the county’s purchase of 5817 Dryden Place, which is west of the airport and located in the runway protection zone, according to Jason Haber, the city’s intergovernmental affairs director.
Councilwomen Cori Schumacher and Priya Bhat-Patel voted against the resolution, while the resident group Citizens for a Friendly Airport said the purchase violates a settlement agreement with the city.
“In staff’s estimation, it does constitute of an expansion of the airport,” Haber said. “Again, (we’re) recommending retroactive city approval, the value in that, but that we think the county did not follow state law.”
Even more, Haber said the city doesn’t believe the county followed the steps laid out in the cooperation agreement. However, by approving the resolution it would allow the city to continue to assert its jurisdiction over the land and limits the allowable and prohibits non-RPZ-compatible uses.
One issue is when the county notified of their intention. State law stipulates if the council did not act within 40 days, then the county’s acquisition would be in compliance.
The city did not approve the first resolution, acknowledging the acquisition is consistent with the General Plan.
The second resolution regarding the legality of the acquisition, was approved 3-1 with Schumacher against.
“I don’t acknowledge that it was a legal acquisition and they didn’t get city approvals,” Schumacher said.
The county acquired the property, which includes a partially occupied commercial building, on Nov. 27, Haber said. The county Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, unanimously approved (4-0, Kristin Gaspar recused herself) the acquisition of the land during its Nov. 20 meeting, according to a letter to the city from C4FA member Vickey Syage.
She raised the issue of the alleged violation with the supervisors, but was met with silence, Syage added. C4FA sued the county over the airport master plan last year and the case is pending.
“The county of San Diego has zero respect for the city of Carlsbad, its residents and the Carlsbad City Council when it comes to Palomar Airport,” her letter reads. “They haven’t for the past 15 years and this action shows they continue to do so.”
Hope Nelson, also of C4FA, said the county could purchase two other lots, which a car dealership uses to park its cars, on either side of the Dyrden property. She said the Federal Aviation Administration will not fund a runway expansion over a landfill, which the county is proposing on the east side of the runway, according to the new Master Plan.
“If the county adds other property in the RPZ in the airport, under FAA control, they could tweak the current runway expansion plan,” Nelson said. “They could drop a bunch of dirt and engineer and even longer runway over the RPZ.”
Regarding whether the acquisition of the land is in line with the city’s General Plan, the City Council makes the determination, Haber said. The county is also required to submit a plan to the City Council, which it had not done.
Also, Schumacher referred to the city municipal code, which states the council shall not approve any zone change authorizing the expansion of the airport without a public vote.
However, one of the biggest sticking points is the settlement agreement, which was finalized in March. The county announced its acquisition during a Sept. 19 meeting with the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee and informed city staff during a Sept. 24 presentation, Haber reported.
“The FAA strongly recommends that airport operators or owners own the land within their RPZ,” Haber said the Federal Aviation Administration regarding runway protection zones. “The purpose of that is to enhance the safety for the users and the general public.”