Watsonville Council Postpones Adoption of General Plan Update

watsonvilleThe Watsonville City Council met on Tuesday evening September 25th to adopt the updated General Plan 2030, and the associated recirculated Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA), the Friends of Buena Vista, and local Sierra Club sued the city after the May 2006 meeting where the council approved the General Plan 2030 despite major opposition.

The issue was over development and encroachment of Watsonville Airport requiring closure of runway 8-26. Not to mention the urban sprawl with the associated environmental problems it would have created.

Encroachment has, and continues to cause the demise of many airports, including Santa Cruz Skypark.

The Superior Court’s decision in March 2008 was favorable, and the city filed an appeal. In March 2010, the appeals court upheld (and expanded upon), the Superior Court’s decision against the city.

As a result of the litigation the city was required to update General Plan 2030, and change the associated EIR. The Superior Court then has to approve the update, after reviewing the changes to the objectionable content.

To help achieve approval, the city planning department invited WPA representatives to a series of meetings to give advice on changes to General Plan Chapter 13, containing airport land use planning.

As a result, significant changes in language were made to be compliant with the court decisions, the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, the State Aeronautics Act, and applicable FAA Regulations. The General Plan Update content now reflects almost all of WPA’s, and their attorney’s, advice.

A consultant working for the City on airport land use planning was asked by a councilman, “What was wrong with the old General Plan?” He stated it would take two hours to describe all the problems; and essentially, it did not comply with the State Aeronautics Law, and the associated state planning Handbook.

Prior to the council meeting, and public hearing, a letter from the Friends of Buena Vista regarding environmental issues (CEQA) was delivered to the council and the Development Director.

The letter issues caused postponement of a decision until October 23rd. Councilman Daniel Dodge complained, “I came here to vote [yes] on the General Plan.” In other words, forget the blabbering public’s input at the podium. How the CEQA issues in the letter will be resolved is unknown.

This delay provides WPA additional time to work on additional airport land use planning issues, a possible development adjacent to runways in a runway sideline zone, and zone 3 (turning zone).

Since public safety is involved, for both aircraft occupants and people in the proposed buildings or area, it is anticipated that the city will do the right thing this time around.

dchauvetDan Chauvet
Member, WPA Board of Directors