Cities, Land Use Group Appeal Master Plan Decision as Aurora State Airport Case Goes Before LUBA

The cities of Aurora and Wilsonville, along with one private citizen and the land use advocacy groups Friends of French Prairie and 1000 Friends of Oregon have all filed appeals of the Oregon State Aviation Board’s recent decision approving updates to the Aurora State Airport Master Plan.

The master plan is important because it is a critical prerequisite for the proposed 1,000-foot runway extension that supporters say is needed to safely accommodate the numbers and classes of aircraft currently using the airport.

The runway extension is opposed by the cities of Aurora and Wilsonville, the Friends groups and a number of area residents, who fear it will bring larger, louder aircraft — and more of them.

The master plan became an issue months ago, when Oregon Aviation Director Betty Stansbury wrote in a letter to the Friends of French Prairie that the board had never approved the 2012 master plan. However, she retracted that statement in a later letter, “clarifying” that the master plan had been adopted after all.

The aviation board held a meeting on Oct. 31 and affirmed Stansbury’s position, concluding that the 2012 master plan had been approved by the state eight years earlier, in October 2011. The decision was heralded by supporters of the runway extension, like the Aurora Airport Improvement Association and its president, Bruce Bennett.

“The board’s action was affirmation of everything we’ve been saying,” Bennett said in a press release. Quote: “The Master Plan process was a good process, that the proposed runway extension is a necessary safety improvement, and that the Master Plan with the proposed runway extension meets all state land use goals and will not infringe on local farm land.” End quote.

But opponents of the runway extension, evidently, was not convinced. The city of Aurora and Aurora resident Joseph Schaefer were the first to file their challenge to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, commonly known as LUBA. They were joined this week by a joint appeal from the two Friends groups, and a separate one by Wilsonville.

Opponents contend that there are no final orders, minutes or any other records that verify the approval of the 2012 master plan.

Furthermore, Friends of French Prairie President Ben Williams says an audio recording of the October 2011 meeting, which he obtained through a public records request, does not include the adoption of the final Aurora Airport Master Plan — even though the aviation board says it did.

If this is confusing the heck out of you, don’t worry: you’re not alone. It’s an extremely complicated case involving multiple layers of federal, state, county and local government; multinational corporations as well as local businesses; land use interests, neighborhood associations and small farms.

Sorting out the mess will fall to LUBA for the time being, whose decision could come any day now, or could take months.

One thing we do know: This fight is far from over.

Photo: Matt Maass, state airports manager for the Oregon Department of Aviation, speaks during a Positive Aurora Airport Management meeting in July.

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