Recent efforts by the Oregon Dept. of Aviation (ODA) to expand the Aurora State Airport through a $37 million grant application to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October 2018 has raised again an underlying, open question unanswered for several years: Is there is a legally adopted master plan for the Aurora State Airport justifying ODA’s application for federal and/or state funds?
Determining the legal status of the Aurora State Airport Master Plan is crucial for many reasons:
- The ODA’s $37 million application to the FAA referenced the Aurora State Airport Master Plan as an underlying authority for the grant request, implying that the Plan was legally adopted;
- The most recent version of the Aurora State Airport Master Plan dated 2013 available on the ODA website identifies just over $7 million as the total cost for runway extension and related projects — far less than the $37 million requested of the FAA;
- The airport master plan is the guidance document for development and operations at the airport, and the absence of a standard public-review process and approval that complies with state law raises question about policies and practices within ODA and the appointed overseeing State Aviation Board;
- If the high-profile master plan for the Aurora State Airport was not legally approved, then this raises questions if any ODA airport master plan is a legal document upon which state or federal funding applications may be made.
Friends of French Prairie was informed in 2016 by ODA that the 2013 Aurora State Airport Master Plan produced from the 2009-2013 master-planning process had not been formally adopted by the State Aviation Board. The reason given was that the Dept. of Aviation did not have the required State Agency Coordinating Agreements and Administrative Rules in place to conduct a legal plan adoption.
Then, in March 2017 Friends of French Prairie was informed by ODA that the required State Agency Coordinating Agreements and Administrative Rules had been completed and approved by the State Aviation Board—again without any kind of public notice or comment opportunity.
Since 2017 ODA refuses to answer the question, “Has the master plan for the Aurora Airport been approved and legally adopted?” In this case “legally adopted” means in compliance with Oregon state law, as opposed to “approved by the FAA.”
To resolve this question, in January 2019 Friends of French Prairie retained a land-use attorney, who on Jan. 28 delivered a letter to ODA asking:
Has a draft master plan for the Aurora State Airport been submitted to the State Aviation Board for approval & adoption?
- Has the Board in fact adopted or approved a master plan for the Aurora Airport? If so, when?
- If no master plan has been submitted to the Board, what is its current status?
- What is the status of the Department’s state agency coordination efforts with respect to the master plan? Have these been carried out? If not, how and when will they be carried out and completed?
- What citizen involvement efforts have been undertaken with respect to the master plan? What further citizen involvement efforts are planned or being planned?
On April 29, FOFP’s attorney received a response from ODA, including the following:
- The last Aurora Airport Master Plan was completed in December 2012 but it has not been submitted to the board for adoption.
- The State Aviation Board has not adopted a master plan for Aurora.
- ODA is awaiting certification of its State Agency Coordinating agreements, and “Adoption of the 2012 Aurora State Master Plan is on hold until this process is complete.
Regarding citizen involvement and public transparency, the ODA letter said:
Once ODA’s SAG program is certified, ODA will comply with any applicable requirements in the SAC program when adopting the airport master plan.
The last statement is critical because it turns out that ODA should have been operating under the SAC program it inherited from ODOT (the state agency from which it was crated in 1999), and the ODOT program required:
- Involvement of all “affected” municipalities
- Compliance with Statewide Land Use Goals
Therefore, the IGA between ODA, Marion County and City of Aurora which excluded City of Wilsonville and Clackamas County from the Aurora Airport Impact Zone (i.e. affected area) should never have been created, and the absence of any public process around the 2012 Master Plan constitutes violation of the intent of compliance with statewide land use goals.
We await the necessary corrective actions by the Dept. of Aviation to these violations of the rules and regulations they should have been operating under while they conducted the most recent master plan for the Aurora Airport.