Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oceanside’s airport to get long-awaited improvements: Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield/Oceanside Municipal (KOKB), California

Airport Manager Dennis Easto discusses improvements to the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield with Oceanside Resident David Terrell. The city hosted an open house at the Oceanside Public Library on Wednesday to get feedback from the community about the master plan. 
Photo by Paige Nelson 

Oceanside is in the process of updating the master plan for the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield off Highway 76. The plan for the airport will determine improvements required to accommodate future aviation needs over the next 20 years. 
by Paige Nelson

OCEANSIDE — After a two-year lawsuit over land use, Oceanside is moving ahead with its new master plan for the Bob Maxwell Memorial Airfield. 

 The yearlong process of updating the plan began earlier this year in March. The last plan was adopted in 1994.

At an open house meeting on Wednesday, officials introduced the preliminary outline to the public at the Oceanside Public Library.

“This is a good thing for the little guys,” said Dan Matloch, an Oceanside resident and commercial pilot. “I think the airport is a diamond in the rough.”

Airport Property Ventures, the company that leases the airport and runs it for the city, was awarded the contract in 2009 with a promise to the city there would be many improvements, said Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood.

“This airport hasn’t had a lot of investment, but we have been able to secure some federal grants,” said Darcy Driscoll, senior administrator for Airport Property Ventures.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all airports to update their master plans regularly to maintain eligibility for FAA grants, said Laura Feja, AECOM Airport Planner.

“We need to make sure it’s affordable, environmentally appropriate and accommodates the growth forecast,” said Feja.

Feja said the plan will help determine what improvements are required to meet future aviation needs at the 43-acre airport for the next 20 years.

Under the grant terms, the FAA will cover 90 percent of the cost to create the new master plan. The remainder of the cost will be funded by Airport Property Ventures.

“The delay has been because of ongoing legal issues,” Wood said, “but this is a prosperous airport and we’re moving forward.”

The city was sued back in 2008, when Santa Monica-based AELD LLC argued it was the rightful owner of 14.7 acres of vacant land at the north side of the airport.

In 2010, a district judge ruled the FAA’s jurisdiction over the airport trumped the company’s claim to the land and the dispute was resolved.

When Wood first joined the city council, he said he questioned whether the airport was worth keeping at all.

“We’ve obviously resolved that since the FAA said they would not let us close the airport,” Wood said, “so we’re going to fix it up.”

Wood said one of the main issues with the plan right now is how to use the empty space, but for many residents who attended the meeting, noise mitigation is a bigger priority.

“We’re all concerned about noise pollution because it affects the quality of life,” said Oceanside resident Victor Roy.

Over the years, Wood said the airport has received complaints about small aircrafts that don’t follow the designated take off and landing path and veer over nearby houses.

“I think people here are worried that somehow expanding the runway will bring in small jets,” Wood said. “We won’t do that — it’s too small.”

Wood said as the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad becomes more commercialized, the new airport would inevitably draw in more of those small planes.

The airport is mostly utilized by local private pilots and small businesses, with about 12,000 total operations per year. According to the predicted growth forecast, that number isn’t expected to increase drastically.

A final report will be released in January and the complete plan is anticipated to be completed by June.

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