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"FAA blasts airport sale idea"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2005 23:36:49 -0500
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
FAA blasts airport sale idea
Niver says agency influencing vote by 'intimidation'
By Gordon Weeks
The Anacortes (WA) American
The Federal Aviation Administration has adamently opposed the closure of the
Anacortes Airport in a recent letter to the Port of Anacortes.
In a Sept. 27 letter to Port Executive Director Dan Stahl, J. Wade Bryant,
manager of the Seattle Airports District office of the FAA, writes that the
possibility of closing the airport "is not consistent with the efforts by
the Federal Aviation Administration, the Port of Anacortes and others to
maintain the airport as a viable aviation facility.''
The FAA is stating its stance because "we want you to know our position
before you spend effort and money on pursuing closure,'' Bryant writes.
The Port of Anacortes Commission two weeks ago voted to place an advisory
vote on the February ballot asking if the Port should consider selling the
Anacortes Airport for residential development. The results of the advisory
vote do not commit the Port to sell the 130-acre site.
The ballot measure was passed five days after the Port rejected a $12
million offer for the airport by Seattle development company Parkside
Development Inc., which hoped to build 300 to 400 houses on the site.
In his letter, Bryant writes, "The Anacortes Airport is a publicly owned
commercial service National Plan of Intergrated Airport Systems airport;
therefore it serves an important role in the national aviation system. The
FAA adamently opposes the closure of any NPIAS airport that has continuing
obligations to the federal government.
"In my 35 years of dealing with airports, my office has evaluated numerous
proposals, but we have never permitted the closure of an obligated airport
until an equal or better replacement airport was built and opened by the
sponsor. The position at the national level is the same. The FAA has not
permitted the closure of an airport comparable to the Anacortes Airport.
"Unless FAA determines closing of an airport to be in the best interest of
aviation, we will take whatever action we deem appropriate to prevent
closure of an obligated airport. In fact, the FAA has taken legal action to
force a few sponsors to maintain their airport and continue meeting their
The FAA "worked hard with all parties the past several months and believe we
have made a lot of progress dealing with the airport and airport neighbor
issues,'' Bryant writes. "We encourage the governing body of the Port of
Anacortes to continue building on this progress instead of considering
proposals for closure of the airport.''
The airport drew support recenty from the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce.
In an official position statement, the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Board
of Directors states the organization wants to see the airport remain open.
"The Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors unanimously supports
the continued operation of the Anacortes Airport,'' wrote Chamber Executive
Director Michael Broome. "It is an essential public facility and business
transportation resource for our Island community.''
Commissioner Ray Niver, who initiated the discussions on the advisory vote,
said the FAA may be acting illegally by advocating a position on a local
"We haven't even determined the final language on the advisory vote, but I
believe we have every legal right to put the vote on the ballot,'' Niver
said. In its letter, "the FAA is influencing the vote by intimidation,'' he
"My job is to represent the public, and I can't do that if I don't know what
they want,'' said Niver.
Brian Wetcher, one of three three commissioners who supports the advisory
vote, said the FAA letter is a sober, bureaucratic reaction to phone calls
from Anacortes Airport supporters.
"I believe it was the response to people calling the FAA and letting them
know they wanted a response,'' he said.
Sometimes, administrative agencies take a position contrary to community
feeling, said Wetcher.
"The FAA does not approve or disapprove of anything,'' he said. "They say ,
`We will pay for this, or we won't pay for this.'''
Wetcher said he's received a dozen letters and about 30 phone calls from
people supporting the advisory vote.
"Someone out there wants this to happen,'' he said.
But Commssioner Bill Short, who along with Steve Hopley opposed the advisory
vote, said, "I felt the FAA was right on target. If the FAA doesn't take on
not closing airports, we would probably not have any airports in the
The airport is a "very vital part of infrastructure'' that provides an
aviation feeder to and from the island, allows small businesses transportion
to and from the San Juan islands, and offers more emergency services in case
of an earthquake, tidal surge or the oil refineries being destoryed by
enemies, he said.
But Short said he doesn't believe the FAA stance will effect the
commission's push forward on an advisory vote.
"A couple commissioners tried to sabotage the operations and developments of
the airport,'' he said. "If they create expenses, they can be charged to the
airport, which allows them to point out the airport is losing money, `Let's
The Port will discuss funding voter literature for the February ballot at
its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Post your opinion on this story in the CAA General Aviation Forum
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