Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Burbank, Calif., officials plan more meetings on airport terminal expansion
The Los Angeles (CA) Daily News

BURBANK, Calif. — City officials hope to sit down with residents to discuss a controversial proposal that would allow Bob Hope Airport to retain land that could be used for a new terminal. City officials in June outlined the terms of the proposed development agreement, including a provision that the airport could not build a new passenger terminal for a decade. But City Councilwoman Stacey Murphy said the city needs to hear more from residents about what the plan would mean to them.

“Most people that I talk to don’t even know what it’s about,” Murphy said.

At tonight’s meeting, the City Council will discuss various options for gathering community input, such as holding town hall meetings or workshops.

The council is scheduled to vote on the agreement Jan. 18. Murphy said she would like to have three community meetings before then.

At recent City Council meetings, critics of the proposed agreement have argued that the city should force the airport to sell 59 acres.

But City Councilman Todd Campbell said that, in return for allowing the airport to retain the land, the city could benefit from cooperation from the airport on noise abatement and pollution reduction. And the city would get the assurance of no new terminal for 10 years, he said.

Critics argue that the airport’s promise to hold off on a new terminal is hollow, since the airline industry’s financial troubles negate the need for a larger terminal.

“It may turn out that we are persuaded by the community that it isn’t a good agreement and that we go the other direction,” Campbell said.

Attorney Philip Berlin, a former airport commissioner from Burbank, opposes the agreement, noting that Delta Airlines plans next month to add a daily nonstop flight to Atlanta, and that the airport’s mission statement defines it as a “regional airport.”

“What kind of regional airport has planes that go back and forth to Atlanta? That’s not a regional airport, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening here,” Berlin said.

But Victor Gill, a spokesman for the airport authority, said that the number of passengers using the airport has remained fairly steady, fluctuating between 4.5 million and 4.9 million since 1995. And, despite the addition of the flight to Atlanta, state law prevents the airport from lengthening its runways, which would allow for larger planes that typically fly long-haul routes.

“It’s only one flight a day, and it’s hardly an indicator of how the airlines have treated this airport (in) the past,” Gill said.