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What’s next for Paine Field? | Mayor's Message

 

Recently, a private developer released a set of architectural drawings for a proposed passenger terminal at Paine Field. It caused many in our community to ask: Is the fight to stop air service over? I wanted to take a few minutes to update our community on the status of this important issue.

The City of Mukilteo has long been committed to preserving Paine Field for its most valuable role in our region—as the center of the largest aerospace cluster in the world. As an aerospace hub, Paine Field represents tens of thousands of good paying jobs at Boeing and dozens of suppliers and related companies in the area.

This aerospace role is not without impacts; anyone who travels the Boeing Freeway in the afternoon knows that Boeing creates traffic impacts, and the Dreamlifter and other jets do have noise impacts as well. But these impacts are offset by the significant positive impact of the jobs and economic activity the aerospace sector brings with it.

None of this can be said about expanded passenger flights at Paine Field. The noise, traffic and air pollution will not bring thousands of good jobs with it —just negative impacts for our community. And that is why the City of Mukilteo has worked so hard to ensure a full and fair accounting of these impacts through the environmental review process.

We joined the City of Edmonds in bringing suit against the Federal Aviation Administration in federal court for underestimating and minimizing the impacts of passenger air service on our region. The law is clear, once one passenger flight is allowed to land, all passenger flights must be allowed. The airport is not allowed to place limits on hours of operation or types of planes that can come to the airport. So noisy, older jets landing while our families are trying to sleep is one very real possibility.

Unfortunately, the federal courts have so far decided that the environmental impacts should be weighed in increments, and since the current plan only envisions a few flights, only those impacts should be counted. The City disagrees, and we have appealed and continued to press our case in the courts. This lawsuit remains unresolved.

At the same time, the private developer has begun the land use process with the county to approve the terminal construction. This means another opportunity for the City of Mukilteo to ask for a fair and full accounting under state law and county code. We will closely monitor the land use application and comment on the impacts to our community, and use all avenues available to make sure we are heard.

It is true that this current proposal has progressed further than other plans for passenger air service. But there are still many opportunities for review and many legal tools at our disposal to ensure our community is heard. This discussion is far from over.

At the same time, I am working to ensure that the management of the airport listens to the public in all the decisions it makes. I was appalled that the County rushed a 50-year lease option for prime land at the County’s number one asset through the process with the minimum amount of public notice and opportunity for review.

That is why I am supporting a County Charter amendment to reinstate the Paine Field Airport Commission and ensure better public oversight of the airport. This model worked for 30 years and should be brought back to help manage this important public asset. I am also supporting an amendment to improve the County Council’s accountability by requiring more evening meetings and transparency in decision making to the public.

The City of Mukilteo has been clear from the outset that we do not have the legal authority to stop passenger service on our own, but we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the full impacts to our community are heard and addressed. We will not stop in that mission, and the fight is not over.

 

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