The Monterey airport is poised to approve a runway plan – and face another lawsuit.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The weather isn’t to blame for this delay. Wrangling over a proposed road at the Monterey Peninsula Airport is.
The airport’s runway safety project was ready for takeoff, with a construction crew about to break ground, when Monterey County Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal ordered a temporary halt to the project in June.
Villarreal directed the Monterey Peninsula Airport District to revise some sections of its environmental impact report, detailing the effects of a $42-million runway safety project designed to comply with Federal Aviation Administration standards.
The project’s major components: two high-friction engineered material arresting systems, or slightly bouncy extensions on each side of the runway, designed to catch planes that might speed off the edges; an 80-foot retaining wall comprised of 10 terraced panels; and a new access road on the north side of the airport, ending behind Tarpy’s restaurant in Del Rey Oaks.
While Villarreal accepted most of the proposal, she agreed with the plaintiff, Highway 68 Coalition, that the EIR should more thoroughly consider the potential significance of a new road.
Critics cite the airport’s 1992 master plan, which calls for development between the airport and the city of Del Rey Oaks.
“Basically, the survival of the airport depends on developing that north side,” says Dick Searle, who’s been an airport district board member for 30 years.
When he filed suit last spring, Highway 68 Coalition attorney Alexander Henson argued the road was not included for safety purposes, but rather as an artery for that future buildout.
Now, he contends the road is only included to let officials quarry dirt for the retaining wall. “This is the lie of the story. This roadway is not needed,” he says. “It’s just a Band-Aid to cover up the scar that would be left by hauling all the dirt.”
Airport Deputy General Manager Mark Bautista says Henson’s argument is a red herring. “It is true that the proposed road’s cut would be used to provide fill,” he writes by email. “However, that simply is evidence of good planning, and not perverse motive.”
The revised EIR states that development on airport property is unlikely due to “lack of commercial identity,” plus environmental and topographic constraints.
The airport board voted Dec. 19, after the Weekly’s deadline, on the revised EIR. If it’s approved, Henson says, he’ll challenge the new plans in court.