Paine Field opponents turn to state’s high courtCommercial air service making headway in spite of appeal
Despite a series of setbacks, the city of Mukilteo under Mayor Jennifer Gregerson intends to keep fighting plans for commercial air service at Paine Field.
“We think that aerospace is really the best use of the Paine Field airport and commercial air service isn’t the right use,” Gregerson said.
In March 2015, Snohomish County approved option-to-lease agreement with New York-based Propeller Airports based on the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2012 determination that roughly two-dozen commercial flights a day at the airport would have no significant environmental impact. That agreement gave Propeller three years design a two-gate terminal.
Soon after, the city appealed that decision in federal court jointly with the city of Edmonds, the Save Our Communities (SOC) group and two Mukilteo residents. Nearly a year later, the appeals court upheld the findings of the FAA’s study.
The city also challenged that decision in the state court of appeals, arguing that since the county did not complete an environmental impact study before extending a lease option, that option should be voided.
In January, the appeals court disagreed, so the city filed for reconsideration, which was denied in February.
Now, as of April 3, the city has filed a petition for review with state Supreme Court in hopes that court will hear the case.
“We think that we have a good case in appealing the lease option,” Gregerson said. “They should have done the environmental analysis before they committed to 50 years.”
The 30-year lease option comes with two optional 10-year extensions. Once signed, the lease would require Propeller to pay roughly $429,000 in yearly rent to the county.
While Propeller has yet to apply for a building permit, the county in late February announced it was ready to issue a grading permit, which is a significant step toward construction.
At the same time, the county also issued a determination that the proposed passenger terminal would not have any significant adverse impact on the environment. That determination came with conditions for noise, traffic, stormwater runoff into Japanese Gulch and impacts to critical areas, such as wetlands.
Under that approval, Propeller would be expected to avoid airplane routes over residential areas and limit flights in the middle of the night to four between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. within a 24-hour period.
The SnoKing Watershed Council has filed an appeal of that approval focused on the adequacy of plans for stormwater drainage. The Snohomish County Hearing Examiner is set to hear that appeal at 9:30 a.m. May 24.
The county also received some three comments on its decision, none of which came from the city or SOC.
“When I purchased my home in Mukilteo, I was assured that Paine Field would remain a small airport and would not be open to commercial,” Peggy Russe wrote in an email comment to the county. “Already there are flights going over my house in the very early morning and this will only increase with the commercial aspect.”
The 29,300-square-foot terminal building would sit on some 11 acres between an existing terminal and the airport’s control tower. It would have as many as 600 parking spots and employ as many as 50 people.
Propellor is expected to pay a total of $330,000 in fees for traffic mitigation to the city, the county and the state Department of Transportation.
The terminal would serve some 3,600 passengers per day with Propeller’s plan for as many as 16 takeoffs and landings each day. Propeller has said it doesn’t expect service to increase beyond what’s been proposed.
Still, Gregerson said she and others remain concerned about the possibility that commercial activity will increase over time, boosting noise, traffic and other impacts on Mukilteo neighborhoods. That’s why she and other city officials have been willing to talk with the company’s CEO, Brett Smith, about ways to address the city’s concerns.
“We would still prefer to not have commercial service, but it makes sense to work with them,” Gregerson said.
Smith has said he plans to have the terminal up and running in 2018.
In the past, both the Alaska Airlines’ Horizon Air branch and Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air had expressed interest in providing service at Paine Field. Propeller has yet announce any official carriers or destinations.