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"Monterey Peninsula Airport project halted"
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Airport project halted
EIR for safety improvements inadequate, judge rules
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY
The Monterey County (CA) Herald
A judge has again slammed the brakes on a long-planned safety project at the
Monterey Peninsula Airport.
In a victory for the Highway 68 Coalition, Judge Lydia Villarreal ruled the
project's environmental impact report failed to address its potential impact
on traffic, growth and greenhouse gas emissions.
Specifically, the judge faulted the report for failing to mention how the
project might provide access to 150 acres on the airport's northern boundary
once designated for an office park.
Almost entirely federally funded, the project was designed to meet new
safety regulations. It would add crushable concrete pads at both ends of the
runways to prevent aircraft from overshooting to the hillsides below.
The plan also called for a new 50-foot paved road intersecting
Monterey-Salinas Highway at the southeast corner of the airport adjacent to
Tarpy's Roadhouse restaurant. The environmental report stated the road would
provide emergency and maintenance vehicles access to the north side of the
property without crossing the runways.
But Villarreal said the report omitted the northside development depicted in
the airport's master plan, an area at the other end of the proposed road.
The omission, she said, precluded informed decision-making and public
The judge noted that Caltrans only lifted its initial denial of a permit for
the road when the airport district estimated it would carry only 25 to 30
vehicles per day. In contrast, she said, a traffic study for Skypark Drive
counted 500 vehicle trips per day.
"The Airport District seeks to minimize the impacts to Highway 68 in order
to have Caltrans grant the encroachment permit," Villarreal wrote in her
April 26 decision, delivered Monday to attorneys in the case.
While the district acknowledges significant other development has taken
place on airport property in the past five years, she said, "the northeast
portion that is slated for development is not mentioned."
Derek Cole, attorney for the district, said 1992 and 2008 reports that
mention the research and development park were outdated. The park is no
longer planned, he said, because "there is no demand" for it.
The judge said the district will also need to further study greenhouse gas
emissions, since expansion and traffic issues were not adequately addressed.
Richard Rosenthal, attorney for the Highway 68 Coalition, said he will
submit a proposed writ based on the ruling that would completely set aside
the EIR and the project's approval.
Cole said he and airport officials had not had time to discuss the ruling's
impact. He said it may only require addenda to the EIR.
"I would take issue with that," said Rosenthal.
Villarreal rejected the coalition's objections to two large, terraced
retaining walls at the airport's southeast corner visible from
Monterey-Salinas Highway and adjacent to Tarpy's Roadhouse. The plan states
the walls are necessary to accommodate the crash pad on that end of the
Villarreal said the draft EIR circulated before the report's final approval
had adequately described the walls and analyzed their impact on
environmentally sensitive plants in the area.
Mark Bautista, the airport's deputy general manager for planning and
development, said the road along Monterey-Salinas Highway will be 2,000 feet
long and the road adjacent to Tarpy's 650 feet. Both will be planted with
endangered species temporarily removed during construction.
Villarreal noted that in a Dec. 2, 2010, email to a consultant, Bautista
expressed concerns about moving dirt cut away for the walls to the north
side of the airport.
"One of our environmentally sensitive plants thrives on freshly turned
dirt," he wrote in the email. "I would hate to see the spreading of the dirt
inadvertently result in acres and acres of additional environmentally
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