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"Oceanside's airport to get long-awaited improvements"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Oceanside's airport to get long-awaited improvements
By Paige Nelson
The Encinitas (CA) Coast News

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

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.

Representatives from the company detailed plans to repave the entire runway
and taxiway, build additional hangars, install perimeter fencing and
possibly relocate the terminal building.

"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

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

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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