Independence Oregon FAA Meeting - Final Report - March 2, 2010
Norm Rainey, John Horn and myself were invited to a meeting hosted by Independence Mayor John McArdle and organized by the Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Staff. Attending were Congressional Staff for Senators Merkley and Wyden and Representative Schrader. State Senator Betsy Johnson and State Representative Vicki Berger were personally present. ODA representatives included the new Acting Director Doug Hedlund and Mitch Swecker, the State Airports Manager and Mark Gardiner, Chairman of the Oregon Aviation Board. FAA representatives included Randall Fiertz, Compliance Director and two other staff from Washington DC, along with two staff from the Seattle FAA District Office. City Manager Greg Ellis was also in attendance.
The meeting was jointly chaired by Mayor John McArdle and Aviation Board Chair, Mark Gardiner. Following introductions around the table, Gardiner gave the floor to Randall Fiertz. We were then asked to provide our perspectives from the standpoint of the Airpark, the Mayor’s office and ODA. These presentations were followed by discussion, questions and answers. The folks from ODA and the FAA representatives later on took a vehicle tour of the airport and the Mayor also reported that they drove on some of our Airpark taxiways.
Here is what we learned from the FAA:
- That the their visits to Aurora and Independence today are part of the overall (fact finding) process being followed to update FAA operating policies;
- That an audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had faulted the FAA for not managing and protecting public investments in airports throughout the Nation as well as they might be doing;
- That the Compliance Guidance Letter 2009-1 and Compliance Order 5190.6B had been drafted/updated based on this historic FAA policy against TTF access;
- That the FAA National Office had begun a program of regular Regional audits focused on how to protect airports in the long run (e.g. 50+ years);
- That their audits had confirmed what the GAO study had also said about not implementing the long-standing FAA policy against TTF access consistently across the country;
- That they were discovering a much higher incidence of TTF access than had been expected – in particular through their current field visits and comment process;
- That there are around 40 airports in the Seattle District’s area that have residential TTF access;
- That there are some real issues and situations throughout the nation which need corrective action – many not necessarily related to residential access issues but many which are;
- That they are struggling with how to develop National policies which could be implemented which will both fix the many real problems they see or perceive and which will preserve the Nation’s airports over the long run;
- That options on the table which are up for consideration include:
- Should we allow TTF operations in the future, and under what circumstances;
- Should we unwind (terminate) current TTF agreements (even though there are many more than were expected);
- What will be required in the form of National Legislation to accomplish whatever policies are eventually established such as allowing airports to opt out of receiving Federal Funding and at the same time go about providing for flexibility in future growth?
What (we hope) the FAA learned from Independence:
- That there is a 35 year history of successful integration between the State, Airpark, the City and the larger County communities (see attached document provided to and reviewed with the group) which provides a model for economic development and long-run airport protection;
- That none of the issues cited for other residential airparks apparently exist at Independence – there are no noise complaints from residents, there has been substantial consideration provided (since inceptioni) by Airpark residents for access to 7S5 and there have been no safety or security issues;
- That the “Policy Debate” around residential TTF has negatively affected efforts on the part of the City to attract industry (and associated jobs) to the west side of the Airport – which would also further protect the airport from encroachment;
- That the “Policy Debate” has negatively affected families and the community as a whole – especially in the area of Value and Liquidity for affected properties;
- That there could have been a high density non-airport related residential development on the southern 20 acres of the Airpark without our participation and without community support;
- That the Airpark supports a broad spectrum of community-related activities;
- That the Airpark provides a model of ‘how to do it right’;
- That there have been and will continue to be significant financial contributions to the State and City and County from the residents of the Airpark – e.g. that no special privileges are being paid for by government money which benefit only Airpark residents – quite the opposite;
- That the Oregon Land Use Planning system is both strong and that it works to protect both farmland and other aspects of communities;
- That there are many policy options which the FAA can use to protect airports from residential or other forms of encroachment – such as deed restrictions;
- That we are ready, willing and able to assist them in developing policies which can be protective, flexible and far reaching;
- That the City of Independence and the Airpark was anxious to get a clear confirmation of the assurances eventually provided by Carol Suomi of the Seattle office that Residential TTF Access for the Airpark was indeed secure and not subject to contract renewal approvals; and
- That our Congressional Delegation; State Senator and State Representative, the Mayor and the County are solidly supportive.
While we didn’t expect to get any on-the-spot decisions (because these were not the decision makers who visited) it seemed that the FAA staff from both DC and Seattle left Independence with a far better understanding of the positive aspects available with proper residential Airpark contitions than they arrived with. There are now faces connected with the potential impact of the proposals drafted in the offices of Washington D.C.
What happens next, or when, is not known. As soon as we get more information we will let everyone know.
Thanks for listening,
Gary Van Horn, Norm Rainey and John Horn