City’s fight over commercial flights shot down

State’s high court declines to review city’s appeal, ending legal saga
By Nicholas Johnson | Jul 19, 2017
Courtesy of: Propeller Airports An artist's rendering of Propeller Airports' proposed two-gate terminal at Paine Field airport.

The city of Mukilteo’s legal fight over plans for commercial flights at Paine Field airport has reached the end of its road.

The state Supreme Court late last month declined to review the city’s appeal of Snohomish County’s March 2015 decision to execute an option-to-lease agreement with New York-based Propeller Airports before completing an environmental review of plans to construct a two-gate terminal.

That decision was based on the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2012 finding that the project would have no significant impact on noise, traffic or air pollution. In 2013, the city appealed that finding to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which threw the case out in 2016.

Similarly, courts have denied the city’s 2015 appeal of the option-to-lease agreement at every turn.

“I felt we had a good case,” Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said. “The county really didn’t have an option to back out of the agreement with Propeller. We feel they really should have done the environmental review before taking that step.”

Since 2008, the city has spent $624,215 challenging plans for commercial air service at Paine Field and conducting its own environmental review, with $309,398 of that being spent on legal appeals since 2013.

The county completed the state-required environmental review earlier this year. In May, the county signed a 30-year lease for the 11-acre site with Propeller, which broke ground there in June with its county-issued grading permit. Under the lease, Propeller is paying the county roughly $430,000 in yearly rent.

Though Propeller has yet to submit an application for a building permit, CEO Brad Smith said that’s coming soon.

“I know people are nervous,” he said. “But I think when people see what this is, they won’t be as upset as they thought they would be.”

Smith expects the terminal will be able to handle 16 flights serving about 1,000 passengers per day. In May, Alaska Airlines became the first carrier to sign on to the project, announcing plans for nine flights per day out of Paine Field beginning in fall 2018. Smith said there is “genuine interest” from another carrier, as well, but declined to specify which one.

“I don’t think people understand how important this is from an economic development standpoint,” Smith said.

Gregerson said she doesn’t buy into the hype about commercial flights boosting the region’s economy.

“I’m very skeptical that there will be an influx of economic development, as Everett has claimed,” she said. “It would be nice if those claims come true, but the impacts for me have always outweighed the potential positives.”

Gregerson said she now plans to develop a relationship with Alaska in hopes of further mitigating impacts on noise, traffic and air pollution.

“When you look at Alaska’s mission and company priorities and vision, they align with using sustainable equipment and having good relationships with surrounding communities,” she said. “But it’s possible that in the future Alaska won’t be the only airline operating out of that terminal, so we need to be ready to continue working with Propellor and the county.”

Gregerson said the city is also moving ahead with its $16-million Harbour Reach Corridor Project, which aims to reduce traffic congestion along the Mukilteo Speedway. She said Propeller is covering about $94,000 of that cost through traffic mitigation impact fees.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jul 19, 2017 15:34

Keep being you Mayor Jenn.  You're a good guy in my eyes, and it's no secret I'm nervous for Paine Field's future.  Now let's get you re-elected!

Posted by: steven d keeler | Jul 19, 2017 18:16


Mukilteo needs a new mayor.  Such a waste of time, money and energy fighting what is good for this county.

Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jul 19, 2017 18:54

So I guess Jennifer Gregerson who ALSO is fighting for more transit, more green space and a better relationship with Paine Field is a bad thing?

Posted by: Steven Keeler | Jul 19, 2017 19:43


Your " spin " IS a strawman here .... she needs to go !


Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jul 19, 2017 19:51

Replace Jennifer Gregerson who is quiet, professional action with a talker?  No.


Jennifer Gregerson simply carried out the will of the locals & many concerned friends of Paine Field.  Some of whom will not speak publicly like me.


No strawman.

Posted by: Steven Keeler | Jul 21, 2017 13:04


Then, my hope is that you both continue to drive to Sea-Tac to take a flight !  Snohomish county residents will never see either of you at Paine field, boarding a commercial flight, right ?


Posted by: Cliff Corcoran | Jul 21, 2017 15:06

Very pleased to see the wasteful legal fight over. Seems very questionable to expend so much tax money on a lost cause.The first decisions were clear, all but chiding plaintiffs, leaving little room any success. But lawyers continued to feast at taxpayer expense. $600K wasted.  But $50K to get millions for a new park and ride was defeated.

Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jul 21, 2017 17:40


I will take public transportation, as will Mayor Gregerson.  We both have active ORCA Card accounts.

Furthermore, it was ME who with the help of Everett Transit who made sure this terminal could accommodate public transportation.  You're welcome.


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