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"Pros, cons of Paine Field expansion"
Friday, May 19, 2006
Pros, cons of Paine Field expansion
Both sides of the debate share their views with a panel that will decide the
By Bill Sheets
The Everett (WA) Herald
EVERETT - Both sides in the airport debate agree on one point: It's about
If commercial airline service is allowed at Paine Field, property values
will plummet and the environment and public health will suffer, according to
a group opposed to expanding operations at Snohomish County Airport.
If passenger flights are not allowed, the decision will cost people and
businesses time, jobs and wages, say those who would like to see Paine Field
become a full-service regional airport.
Both groups offered their visions of the future Thursday to a panel studying
the future of Paine Field. The panel is expected to interpret a decades-old
agreement and determine whether commercial flights could be allowed at Paine
The county unofficially has been considering the idea, with supporters
saying more convenient air transportation would attract jobs.
Detractors, including the cities of Mukilteo, Lynnwood and Edmonds, say the
increased noise and other effects would offset any benefits.
About 40 people attended Thursday's meeting.
Greg Hauth of Mukilteo, a member of the anti-expansion group Save Our
Communities, spoke first. He was followed by business consultant Hans
Toorens of the Private Enterprise Coalition of Snohomish County, an advocacy
group of business owners.
The audience, many sporting black-and-yellow buttons reading "NO commercial
airline service at Paine Field!" applauded heartily after Hauth's half-hour
talk, and politely following a slightly shorter talk by Toorens.
Hauth offered the panel and audience a hypothetical wager - that if he
rolled a die and it came up 1, he would pay the taker $100. If it came up
anything other than 1, the taker of the bet had to pay him $1 million.
That's the same cost-benefit relationship in the airport expansion issue,
If the county refuses to allow passenger service at the airport, it could
lose $2 million annually in federal funds, he said.
The costs of expansion, though, would total $1.6 billion from devalued
property and other societal costs, Hauth said.
"We don't know all the costs for society and the environment and (our)
health, but they're going to be high," he said. "If you're going to do this,
you might as well take my bet."
Toorens was introduced by panel member Tom Hoban, co-owner of Coast Real
Estate Services of Everett. Hoban, a founder of the business coalition, said
he has seen companies locate south of Seattle rather than in Snohomish
County because of the difficulty of travel to Sea-Tac International Airport
from the north.
"Those of you who travel to Sea-Tac know the situation is bad and getting
worse every day," Toorens said.
He said the county's population is projected to increase to 910,000 from
654,000 by 2015, a 39 percent increase, and an "efficient alternative" to
Sea-Tac will be needed.
Large companies "have to be connected to the world," he said.
With more convenient air service, "it's likely that a better number of
high-tech companies paying high wages will settle in Snohomish County."
He said passenger jets are significantly quieter now than they were in the
late 1970s, when an agreement between the county and adjacent cities
discouraging airline service at Paine Field was reached.
The panel's mission is to decide whether or how much to change that
Toorens and Hauth offered conflicting versions of the surrounding
communities' ability to refuse passenger service at an airport.
Hauth said Save Our Communities research shows that the federal government
does not require an airport to convert to passenger service.
Toorens said a federal law prohibits discrimination against commerce.
Hauth said his group doesn't necessarily oppose passenger service in
Snohomish County, "we just oppose it at Paine Field." He noted that a state
committee is studying options for expanded air service.
Questions weren't taken from the audience.
Panel member Tom Gaffney, a business consultant, said he was impressed with
Gaffney said he has approached the issue from a business perspective, but
that "it was helpful to get a clear idea on some of the other issues."
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