Dept. of Aviation held a hearing on “land use compatibility” regarding the Aurora Airport Master Plan in Salem on September 24. Following the hearing, testimony was consolidated by ODA staff and sent to the Aviation Board for their meeting on October 31 in Sunriver—240 miles away from the Aurora Airport. That Aviation Board meeting became a hearing on the Aurora Airport Master Plan…until it wasn’t.

Meaning, that when it was first announced, the hearing had the following Action Item “Adopt the Aurora Master Plan, Airport Layout, Findings of Compatibility, and Findings of Compliance.”

Then, after being challenged by the City of Wilsonville attorney over how they could “adopt” a master plan that they contend was already adopted in 2011, they changed the hearing and Action Item to “Adopt Findings of Compatibility and Compliance in Support of ODA’s State Agency Coordination Program for Aurora State Airport Master Plan Update.”

In other words, a legal mechanism to “adopt” the master plan without formally adopting the master plan.

What was most striking to anyone familiar with the Oregon state land use system and the statewide planning goals, was listening to the ODA attorney brief the Aviation Board during the hearing, attempting to make the case that that the master plan was exempt from Statewide planning goals:

  • The 2012 Aurora Airport Master Plan is an update of the 1976 Master Plan, which has already been adopted into the Marion County Comprehensive Plan
  • OAB is governed by Administrative Rules (same as ODOT rules) and the only jurisdiction with planning authority is Marion County
  • The Findings of Compatibility & Compliance confirm that they are fully compliant with the Marion County Comprehensive Plan
  • If compatibility with a local comprehensive plan can be demonstrated, then Statewide Planning Goals do not apply.
  • You are confirming a plan already approved and approving compatibility findings: no land use decision is being made

It does boggle the mind because the master plan contemplates expanding onto 55 acres of EFU ag land south of the airport. Further, the Findings of Compatibility & Compliance were supposed to have been finalized and adopted before final approval of the master plan, and the concept that Statewide Planning Goals do not apply is both beyond the pale and calls into question the role of the land use system when it comes to airports and aviation.

Is the aviation system exempt from the land use laws all the rest of us have to follow?

According to the Dept. of Aviation and the Aviation Board, the answer is a resounding YES!

Adding further outrage to the undertaking was the assertion that the only “affected jurisdiction” is Marion County. Not Wilsonville. Not Aurora. Not Clackamas County. Only Marion County, and thus only they have a say.

FOFP, City of Wilsonville, City of Aurora and Charbonneau all provided written testimony in opposition to the proposed action item. It passed unanimously.

You can download a copy of the FOFP opposition testimony in PDF here.