Delay for SM airport plan?

– Calling it a


document that violates the county’s own land-use rules, San
Martin’s planning advisory board is asking county supervisors to
reject a proposal that would
– among other things – allow 140 more planes at South County
Airport over the next two decades.
SAN MARTIN – Calling it a “flawed” document that violates the county’s own land-use rules, San Martin’s planning advisory board is asking county supervisors to reject a proposal that would – among other things – allow 140 more planes at South County Airport over the next two decades.

The San Martin Planning Advisory Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to reject portions of the county’s draft Airports Master Plan update – which sets growth limits at the county’s general aviation airports – and asked that it be sent back to another advisory group for more input and retooling.

“The Airport Commission, county consultant and county staff have not properly taken local land-use policies and community input into consideration,” reads a position paper approved by the committee, which is made up of San Martin residents and serves as the unincorporated community’s only strictly local goverment body.

When complete, the updated Airport Master Plan will set growth limits and roles for each of the county’s three general-aviation airports – South County, Palo Alto Airport and San Jose’s Reid-Hillview – through 2022. Through it, county airports officials have recommended the San Martin airfield take the brunt of new growth in the system.

Last month, airports staff said the San Martin facility should be able to base between 425 to 550 aircraft by 2022 – roughly 125 to 250 planes above the current maximum growth capacity of 300 outlined in the airport’s 1982 Master Plan. They have since revised the recommendation, asking a total of 418 planes allowed to be based in San Martin by 2022.

The San Martin airport currently has room for 178 planes, but that number will increase to 278 in 2003 with the expected completion of 100 new hangars that were already approved by supervisors. Roughly 90 planes park at the airport now.

But Wednesday, San Martin committee members said the recommendations and supporting document fail to adequately take the county’s own land-use policies into account.

Among its points, the group’s position paper said noise increases from airport expansion would rob San Martin of its rural identity that’s slated for protection in the county’s master land-use document, the General Plan – effectively changing its character from a rural to an urban area.

Although no formal noise studies have been conducted yet in the master plan update, at recommended growth levels the airport could see a threefold jump in the amount of individual takeoffs and landings – from 56,000 a year now to up to 175,560 a year – if full to its new maximum basing capacity, according to the report.

But the paper notes that San Martin’s background noise level is just one-tenth of San Jose’s. Increases that would be considered mere irritants in San Jose could rob San Martin of its rural identity, it says.

“It’s not just an aggravation, it defines an area,” SMPAC member Barry Shiller.

The paper also said impacts on local infrastructure such as roads and sewage – the community relies on septic systems – have not been addressed in the report, another conflict with general plan policies that safeguard the community’s quality of life.

And the paper said there hasn’t been an appropriate public forum to address and study residents’ concerns.

Minutes and position papers submitted at meetings have not been used or forwarded to points onward in the decision-making process – such as the Airports Commission, the report said.

“They have to consult the community, and that hasn’t been done,” Shiller said.

Supervisors are due to review the draft master plan and make a policy decision on airport growth Nov. 19. But the San Martin committee asked it be returned to the Airports Commission for more complete analysis of issues and alternative solutions, with alternate proposals and pros and cons of each.

Outside the meeting, county Airports Director Jerry Bennett said there’s no perfect place for an airport – but he doubted the recommended changes would change San Martin as drastically as suggested.

“Yes, it’s a rural area, and everyone wants to keep it rural,” he said. “(The airport) is not going to make it non-rural.”

Meanwhile, county officials have proposed to essentially cap growth at San Jose’s Reid-Hillview airport, which has been a source of lively protest for years from residents in subdivisions that run adjacent to the airport’s edge.

Officials recommended trimming 150 planes off the current growth capacity at Reid-Hillview – leaving room for only 24 more planes over the present-day actual capacity of 726.

Palo Alto’s airport was also slated for limited growth, taking on room for 23 more planes than current master plan levels dictate and 60 more than can be accommodated at today’s level of development.

The master plan will also decide whether South County Airport should accommodate the business community and its larger turboprops and corporate jets, but county officials have said that decision will come later after the Nov. 19 meeting. Still, Wednesday, committee members questioned the logic behind that approach.

“It would seem difficult to determine the number of planes if we don’t know the types of planes that are going to be there,” said committee member Sylvia Hamilton.

Longtime San Martin resident Lou Hudson expressed concerns about how an expansion would affect property values. Hudson said he and other residents opposed the original construction of the airport years ago, but it was built anyway.

“It seems like that’s the way this is going to happen,” he said. “Something has to be done – it’s not right.”

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