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burbank/dy/19″/mike1st/mark2nd DOUGLAS YOUNG Staff Reporter A lawsuit over the size and scope of a planned expansion at the Burbank Airport is expected to go to trial this month, following the rejection of a compromise proposal by the Burbank City Council. Burbank surprised the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority last month by floating a proposal to expand the number of airline gates by two to 16 and to put a 10 percent cap on future flights. Burbank also wants a mandatory curfew on flights between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. But after reviewing the proposal at its Feb. 18 meeting, the Airport Authority which supports a much larger proposal appeared to reject the proposal. The impasse means that a lawsuit over the issue will likely proceed to court, where a Federal District Court judge could determine the airport’s future. In the trial, the judge will hear what’s become the central issue in the ongoing battle over expanding Burbank Airport: How much power do local jurisdictions have in determining the size of an airport. The Airport Authority supports a plan to build a new terminal with up to 27 gates, and that would put no limits on growth in passenger traffic and no curfew on flights. Burbank officials have held up the Airport Authority’s envisioned expansion so far, citing a California law that requires any expansions on non-airport land to be approved by the airport’s host city. The project site is now owned by Lockheed Martin Corp., and the Airport Authority has been trying to secure the property through eminent domain. Those efforts so far have been stymied by the City of Burbank. The Airport Authority sued Burbank over the issue, claiming federal laws override the state law on any airport development matters. The two sides have also filed four other lawsuits against each other over the airport, covering issues ranging from the constitutionality of an airport parking tax to a challenge of the environmental impact statement that was conducted for the new terminal. Lawyers involved with the critical case involving land use say a full trial following a March 31 hearing is unlikely, and a summary judgment from Judge Lourdes Baird could be handed down by the end of April. But each side says it will appeal any decision that favors the other, and both have vowed to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. “This is clearly one of the most important issues facing the city,” said Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom. “We’re prepared to spend $2 million a year for the next decade.” Airport Authority representatives also appear to be digging in for a potentially long, protracted battle. “Unless there’s some give, we probably will see there’s no choice according to my clients, it will go to the Supreme Court,” said Richard Simon, a partner in the L.A. office of McDermott Will & Emery and chief counsel to the Airport Authority. But neither side appears ready to give any ground. In its Feb. 11 proposal to the Airport Authority, the Burbank City Council spelled out the conditions under which Burbank would be willing to support an expansion of the airport. In response to those conditions, Airport Authority President Joyce Streator said in a Feb. 18 letter to Burbank Mayor Bill Wiggins that the airport commissioners were “disappointed in the tone of your proposal which favors the City (of Burbank)’s position while putting the Authority in a position of appearing uncooperative if it doesn’t accept your offer.” Streator also rejected Burbank’s insistence that “the Authority be bound to deliver measures that are beyond its ability to guarantee” a reference to the curfew and cap on passenger traffic sought by Burbank, which are both illegal under federal law. Meanwhile, airlines serving Burbank Airport have come down squarely behind the Airport Authority’s larger expansion plan and are generally opposed to the way Burbank is handling the situation, said John Ek, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry. “What gets lost in this issue is that this is not the Burbank Airport. This is the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport,” said Ek. “It would be our hope that the City of Burbank lives up to the contract it signed with the other two cities” to run the airport under a joint authority. Meanwhile, Ovrom maintained that Burbank’s primary goal is not to stop the building of a new terminal. Rather, he said, Burbank wants to limit the airport’s growth so it benefits the local economy while avoiding a noise and traffic nightmare for local residents. “We’d like to see a new terminal built. But why do we have to build this big Taj Mahal of 27 gates? We think that when an airport gets that big, it stops being an asset and starts being a liability.” Both sides have yet to rule out a compromise on the impasse before the trial date, though a mediated settlement seemed unlikely following the Airport Authority’s rejection of the Burbank proposal. Simon pointed out that the Airport Authority will be able to draw from its own revenues to pay its litigation fees, while Burbank taxpayers will have to shell out up to $2 million in litigation fees for each year the lawsuits drag on. “We don’t want to spend $2 million a year on this, but we’ll do it if that’s what we have to do,” said Ovrom. “It’s that important to us.”

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