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Local News

Santa Barbara Airport Fields Public’s Questions, Concerns About Master Plan

Officials hold the second of four informational workshops to discuss the process

The Santa Barbara Airport held the second of four informational meetings Wednesday night concerning the preparation of a new Master Plan, fielding questions and comments from concerned members of the public.

The creation of a Master Plan is a process that the airport must undertake every five to seven years in which it evaluates issues such as potential capacity, safety and environmental concerns in the short, intermediate and long term, and develops a list of capital improvements.

Wednesday’s presentation focused on the second stage of the development, which included assessing a forecast of demand for the airport and current capacity, and identifying any potential issues in five-, 10- and 20-year time frames.

The airport will use the information to develop a list of alternatives for resolving the issues that will then be reviewed by the Master Plan Committee and the Federal Aviation Administration. The next meeting of the Master Plan Committee is expected to be in November or December, and the plan tentatively will be finished three to four months later.

The process of assessing the various airport facilities and forecasting demand is being conducted airport consulting firm Coffman and Associates. The firm also has contracted local environmental consulting firm Dudek, Kimley-Horn and Associates for traffic and parking, and Communiquest for community outreach.

Assistant Airport Director Hazel Johns said the Master Plan process includes balancing the input of 14 to 17 agencies, including the FAA, airport patrons and tenants, and the surrounding community.

Johns said while the stage of the development process will not bring any drastic changes for the airport, there were issues raised that will need attention in the next stage.

“The general aviation community feels the need for more general hangar facilities and additional parking closer to the new terminal,” Johns said. “We’d really like to meet the needs of the aviation community, but also balance financial and environmental concerns.”

According to Johns, there are many areas of the airport that are currently zoned for aviation but have not yet been developed, and many tenants of the airport would like to see these areas turned into additional hangars.

Coffman and Associates airport planner Eric Pfeifer said that in addition to the hangar space, one of the complaints the firm often hears is the loudness of airport activity in the surrounding community. In order to deal with the issue, the firm develops noise contours of how the noise levels of the airport affect different areas and tries to work around incompatible locations such as schools.

Pfeifer said balancing the task of finding space for necessary improvements with such a variety of interests at play is not an easy task.

“We’re not necessarily proposing changes yet but looking at the facility requirements and seeing what might be needed going forward,” Pfeifer said. “One of the most important issues is finding space to fit all these requirements. That will be the fun part.”

Local pilot Paul Bowen said he would like to see the airport once again become more accessible for the general aviation community, adding that one of the most difficult aspects of that is balancing the airport’s economic interests with its accessibility.

“The primary purpose of the airport is economic. There is obviously a tremendous amount of wealth in the area, and if you look at the number of corporate executive jets flying in and out, there has been a huge increase,” Bowen said. “My concern is, how do we keep the airport open to light general aviation, but at the same time make it work financially?”

Bowen said he hopes that the collective expertise of everyone working on the project will result in a viable answer.

“I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a magical answer to this, and I don’t think anyone does,” Bowen said. “Hopefully we can get a bunch of people together who have an idea about this and an idea about that and piece it all together.”

Noozhawk intern Patrick Kulp can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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