The City of Carlsbad and County of San Diego have announced a 20-year agreement that will provide a framework to work together on matters related to McClellan-Palomar Airport. The agreement is part of a legal settlement resolving the City of Carlsbad’s lawsuit against the county regarding the environmental impact report for the airport master plan approved last October.
Palomar Airport is located in the City of Carlsbad, owned and operated by the County of San Diego and subject to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, among others. The jurisdictional roles, responsibilities and requirements of airport operations can at times be unclear. Additionally, during a multi-year county-led project to draft a master plan to guide the direction of the airport over the next 20 years, some members of the community expressed concern over the airport’s future.
The new agreement, approved by the County Board of Supervisors and Carlsbad City Council on March 27, specifies a collaborative approach within the parameters of each agency’s legal powers to address community concerns and minimize the airport’s community impacts, such as aircraft noise, vehicle traffic and aesthetics.
On Oct. 10, 2018, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan and certified the Final Program Environmental Impact Report. After a closed session, the Carlsbad City Council directed staff to pursue a multi-pronged strategy to protect the city’s legal rights and residents’ interests. The direction included working on a cooperative resolution of disagreements while simultaneously filing a legal challenge to the approval of the master plan and EIR. The city’s lawsuit was filed Dec. 9, 2018.
In settling the lawsuit, the city and county will avoid a potentially lengthy and costly legal battle that would not ultimately address all of the issues of concern to the local community, regardless of the outcome of the suit, according to the agreement.
Some of the provisions of the agreement include:
A formalized acknowledgment that in the beginning of this year the county changed the composition of the Palomar Airport Advisory Committee to include greater representation from the North County cities.
A quarterly meeting among city staff, county staff and staff from surrounding cities to discuss airport-related issues of mutual interest.
A statement that the county has immunities from city building and zoning ordinances and that those immunities may also apply to projects by airport lessees and contractors. This statement also specifies that the county’s continued voluntary compliance with a previous conditional use permit issued by the city is not considered a waiver of these immunities.
The agreement specifies the city and county will work cooperatively on the implementation of the airport master plan, including:
The county will implement all design features, mitigation and other measures it committed to in the Environmental Impact Report, in the response to comments and in the mitigation monitoring report.
The city will have an opportunity to review and provide input into landscaping on slopes and retaining walls on county property, as part of the master plan’s implementation.
The county will provide an opportunity for the city to review and provide input on major development projects initiated by the county at the airport, its tenants and contractors.
The county will coordinate with the city on construction noise mitigation measures.
The county will continue efforts to minimize the effects of aircraft noise on the community through pilot education, the Voluntary Noise Abatement Procedures, and outreach to flight schools, pilot groups and airport tenants throughout the region.
The county will use data from four noise monitors to inform the public about specific noise issues and discuss noise concerns with the city at the quarterly meetings. Two noise monitors previously existed, and at the beginning of the year, the county began the process of installing two additional monitors on the north and west sides of the runway. Installation is expected to be completed this summer.
In exchange for the provisions in the agreement, the City of Carlsbad agreed to withdraw its lawsuit and stop the process of changing zoning requirements on land surrounding the airport, which the county had opposed.