The testimony before the Oregon Transportation Commission given by the City of Wilsonville, Clackamas County and Friends of French Prairie was best summarized in the final testimony given by Mia Nelson of 1000 Friends of Oregon when she said that the fundamental problem was that “the funding cart is ahead of the planning horse,” and went on to point out that comprehensive land use planning, as intended by Oregon Law, could very well demonstrate that the cost of infrastructure required to support the expansion sure to follow construction on an air traffic control tower at the Aurora Airport would be so great as to be financially impractical.
Clearly all of this testimony fell on deaf ears at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODT), as evidenced by the Staff Report that was released on August 18, which dismissed public concern about land use considerations with the simple statement that “Construction of an ATCT at the Aurora State Airport will not change the existing land use.” The blind eye in such a statement is staggering, given that the air traffic control tower itself will not change existing land use, but the projected airport expansion and related development will. The Oregon Department of Aviation funding application projects 300 new jobs at the Aurora Airport resulting from the air traffic control tower, in addition to the improved aviation safety delivered by a tower. The fundamental problem all along has been the dutiful avoidance of land use and traditional master planning in order to get FAA funding for the tower, and defer land use planning into the future….sometime! That approach is compounded by the conscious ignoring of the fact that the majority of the impact of airport expansion falls on Wilsonville and Clackamas County, who have been uniformly excluded from the process.
This conscious ignoring of the pertinent issues presented in the testimony given at the July 21 OTC hearing (see below), has prompted the City of Wilsonville to write a letter to OTC expressing their disappointment and detailing the infrastructure, land use and planning issues the staff report ignores.
To add insult to injury, on August 19, the Oregon Aviation Board held a monthly meeting via teleconference, at which Mark Ottenad, Public/Government Affairs Director reiterated the concerns of the City of Wilsonville, Clackamas County, 1000 Friends and Friends of French Prairie, which was essentially derided and dismissed, and “The Board then passed a motion to approve designing the tower to budget and to use future Aurora AIP entitlement funds as needed for tower construction.”
This entire process is not only the funding cart ahead of the planning horse, but is more and more looking like a conspiracy of State agencies with private aviation interests to build an air traffic control tower that will fuel expansion and development via a process that has been gerrymandered to get around all State and local land use planning requirements. And who benefits? The less than 1% of Oregonians who own aircraft, and the business interests at the Aurora Airport who stand to make big bucks on business and real estate development at the Aurora Airport.