McClellan-Palomar Airport- Evicted Pilots' Claims Against Airport Dismissed

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Evicted pilots’ claims against airport dismissed
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

CARLSBAD —- The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled San Diego County did not overstep its authority when it gave a new development company the exclusive right to massively remodel part of Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport. In a 56-page ruling released Tuesday, the agency announced that it was dismissing all issues that a group of pilots and a pilot supply shop owner had raised when it first filed a complaint with the agency last year.

“It is a complete dismissal of all of the claims,” said Laurie Orange, senior deputy counsel for the county. “It is a complete vindication of the county in this matter.”

The pilots, who were evicted last fall because of the $30 million construction project, will have 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision.

Their attorney, Ronald Cozad, said he hadn’t seen the agency’s ruling yet, but added that he wasn’t surprised to hear that it hadn’t gone in his clients’ favor.

“I expected that would be the case,” he said. “I didn’t get very much encouragement when I talked to the FAA.”

His clients filed their complaint against the construction project with the federal agency because it has power to distribute federal aviation grants and check on whether the money is being spent appropriately. Federal money pays for everything from airport construction projects to a street sweeper who cleans the runways at county airports.

Three parties —- the Pacific Coast Flyers club, retired pilot Roger Baker and Carlsbad Aircraft Pilot Supplies shop owner Donnya Daubney —- filed the complaint last year. In their paperwork, they alleged that the airport construction project was conceived “secretly” and benefited jets over small-plane operators.

They argued that the developer —- Palomar Airport Center —- had unfairly gotten a long-term lease on the site. They said the county should have made leases available to anyone in an open bidding process.

The county has said it couldn’t do this because of an earlier legal settlement.

In that settlement, the county had agreed to grant a company called Burrows what’s termed “the first right of refusal” to the site. Burrows later restructured and became Palomar Airport Center.

The new company had a legal right to the site because of the earlier agreement, the county’s attorneys argued.

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration found in their favor. But, in the ruling’s concluding remarks, the agency recommended that the county review all its lease agreements to determine if it has other similar “right of refusal” agreements, and it directed the county to install minimum standards for service providers at its airports.