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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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PAT KRAMER Contributing Reporter Burbank Airport made news recently when it was slapped with yet another lawsuit by the city of Burbank the ninth filed so far to thwart plans for a new $250 million, 19-gate terminal. The latest suit, filed May 29, alleges that the authority’s plans for the terminal expansion do not comply with local land-use ordinances specifically, that the 130-acre property the airport is hoping to acquire from Lockheed-Martin Corp. is not properly zoned for an air terminal. Airport officials say the lawsuit is premature because they have not yet submitted formal plans to the city, and they dismiss the suit as yet another example of the city’s attempts to block the expansion by tying it up in court. Frustrated at the delays and the expense of a legal battle that has already cost the airport authority $3.5 million in legal fees, Airport Authority Executive Director Thomas E. Greer, has hired crisis communications specialists Sitrick & Co. Inc., and is mounting an information campaign of his own. Question: Officials from the city of Burbank are concerned that your expansion will bring more noise and traffic to their community. How do you respond to that? Answer: Every credible source, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, has verified the Airport Authority’s position that a larger terminal will not, in and of itself, increase traffic or noise. That growth will take place regardless of whether a new terminal is built or not. Q: But by building a new terminal with more gates, aren’t you encouraging growth? A: No. The proposed terminal building will simply accommodate the existing demand for passenger activity. Future demands for air service will be driven largely by the ongoing development in Burbank and the surrounding area. The airport is simply trying to accommodate the demand for air service. It does not generate that demand. Q: What’s your position on the latest lawsuit? A: I think it’s another in a series of what I would call frivolous (lawsuits). Any time an entity sues another entity for what they are afraid that entity might do, it sounds a little frivolous to me. It would be sort of like if you owned a convenience store and someone was milling around outside, and you thought they were going to rob you, so you had them arrested, or worse yet, went and shot them. We have taken no action that would violate (Burbank’s) zoning ordinance. I think it’s paranoia. Q: How do you see the demand for air travel increasing in the coming years? A: I think both the FAA and SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) both agree that there will be increases in the demand for air service and that certainly at Burbank, we expect to receive a share of that increase. We are anticipating a 4 percent to 5 percent increase during the planning period which takes up to the year 2010. Q: Does the city’s own growth contribute to the demand at Burbank Airport? A: Absolutely. The airport, as a public infrastructure, accommodates the demand that shows up at our front door. We are not a field of dreams that is, if you build it, they will come. If you create a demand for air service by an increase in population, business activity, commercial development, which the city is doing by developing studio space, the role of the airport is to accommodate that demand. That’s the role that we want to play. Q: Opponents have said that you can resolve this costly dispute by agreeing to a curfew on evening flights and placing some kind of cap on the number of flights. Why don’t you give them what they want? A: The Airport Authority is no more able to impose a cap on flights or a mandatory curfew on flights at this airport than the city of Burbank is able to put up a barricade on the Golden State Freeway at 10 o’clock at night and stop all the cars from going through their city. It’s preempted by federal law. Having said that, there is no verifiable basis on which the city of Burbank can make a claim that the flights at night are causing them irreparable harm. In fact, over 90 percent of all our flight activity takes place between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Q: The city is expected to spend $7.5 million by next year fighting the expansion of the airport. You estimate you legal expenses are $3.5 million. How long do you think this can go on? A: As long as the current elected officials are not held accountable by their voters for spending money on an issue and pursuing something that they know they can’t get. Until they are held accountable for those actions by the electorate, I think they feel perfectly at ease spending the money. Let’s face it, they got elected on this issue. If the issue were to go away, the question is, would they stay in office? Q: How do you think this dispute will be resolved? A: One of our frustrations is the airport is portrayed as the entity that has the ability to resolve this if we would just give in on the caps and curfews. As I’ve already stated, that is against the law. (To resolve this), the first thing that has to be put down as an absolute before negotiations can begin is that neither party can ask the other for that which is beyond their ability to give. That’s where the city has put us. How long can this go on? It’s already gone on too long. But I don’t think the airport authority is willing to abandon the future generations of this region by allowing a very small and vocal isolationist attitude to prevail and not pursue a development program that will allow this airport to accomplish its role into the 21st century.

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