By Lee Perlman
For the Hollywood Star News, July, 2010
With its proposed Master Plan approved unanimously by its Public Advisory Group, the Airport Futures Plan last month ran into a wall of opposition based on plans for new zoning regulations outside Portland International Airport.
Airport Futures, a joint project of the Port of Portland and the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, created a 25-year master plan for the airport. It stipulates certain traffic improvements on access roads to be made as new development occurs or airport usage increases. It also stipulates that such development will be accompanied by wildlife habitat restoration, mostly on Government Island or the Columbia Slough. It did not explicitly rule out the building of a third runway in the future, but did say it would first have to go through an extensive review process. Finally, it set up an ongoing citizen advisory committee as a forum to deal with future issues.
Even PAG members Bob Sallinger of the Portland Audubon Society, Erwin Bergman of Cully and Fred Stovel of Rose City Park, who had been critical of the Port in the past and raised issues during this process, said they were satisfied with the end result.
However, many PAG members failed to realize that the plan also placed environmental restrictions on private land outside the airport, especially in the East Columbia neighborhood to the west. At a meeting of the Portland Planning Commission last month, many of these owners showed up to complain that these restrictions would prohibit future development of their property. Moreover, they said, it would in many cases place existing uses in the gray area known as Non-Conforming Uses – not outlawed, but forbidden to expand and hobbled in their ability to sell, upgrade or obtain insurance.
It is certain that the Commission will be unable to finish review of the plan at its July 13 meeting, and uncertain if it can do so by July 27. After this, the current Commission will be abolished, to be replaced by a new Planning and Sustainability Commission that will not begin work until October, with new members not familiar with the issues.