Hollister Airport – Editorial Against Proposed Flea Market Location

Proximity to airport a reason to nix flea market proposal
Two major concerns with the possibility of a flea market near the Hollister Municipal Airport – safety and economics – should preclude San Benito County supervisors from allowing the proposal at the San Felipe Road site.

Resident Robert Rodriguez faces a heap of opposition against his proposal for the flea market along San Felipe Road across the way from a Hollister Municipal Airport runway. Most recently, the Hollister City Council approved a resolution calling for a rejection by their counterparts on the board.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, a local businessman who absorbed a rejection by county officials on another flea market idea along Shore Road earlier this year, the idea stands little chance. And rightfully so.

Opponents have questioned the site’s close proximity to an airport runway and its potentially negative impact on the city’s prospects for federal funds. Those are serious concerns and far outweigh any arguments by Rodriguez or flea market proponents who tout inflated job-creation figures related to a business there.

From a safety perspective, aircraft would be flying directly over the flea market area before landing on the runway. The market site is positioned in what Caltrans designates as a “high-risk area” – or traffic pattern zone – and officials estimate between 30 percent and 50 percent of accidents have occurred in similar areas at other airports.

Safety is paramount in any government decision, and especially when so many lives could be put at risk. Not that Hollister has a poor safety reputation, but the flea market consideration comes on the heels of a fatal airplane crash after a takeoff from the airport last week and another non-fatal accident in March. In both cases, the pilots crash-landed in open, unpopulated areas and nobody else was harmed. They stand as a reminder that while flying is relatively safe, there remains a need to keep disaster prevention at the forefront.

Minimizing the risk is exactly the point of having safety zones around airports like Hollister’s. Placing a flea market with hundreds of people on the grounds in a high-risk area is merely asking for trouble.

Safety isn’t the only problem, either. Although Rodriguez touts the prospective jobs and commercial activity of a flea market, the reality is that the project would hinder the local economy more than help it. The jobs involved with a flea market are often temporary or part-time. They can result in very little income.

The tax revenue gained would be minimal at best. And throw in that some opponents believe the nearby turn lane is inadequate and would require an expensive fix, which Rodriguez declined to pay for at the Shore Road location.

More important, for the past year business and government leaders worked to successfully gain the “through-the-fence” designation from the Federal Aviation Administration that largely amplifies the economic opportunities at and around the airport. It is not the right time to turn around and irk the FAA after such a gracious gesture.

There are many significant reasons to reject the location for this flea market idea. Perhaps for Rodriguez, a third time will be the charm.

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