Sunday, January 16, 2005
Is accord a truce, or a sellout?
Terminal may still be possible under proposal
By Alex Dobuzinskis
The Los Angeles (CA) Daily News
BURBANK — The City Council on Tuesday will vote on an accord with the Bob Hope Airport that officials describe as a truce in a contentious battle over airport expansion but that critics say leaves the door open for a new terminal. The agreement would block terminal construction for a decade, but allow the airport to acquire an additional parking lot and keep 59 acres of land on which a terminal could one day be built.
To date, the city and the airport have spent more than $25 million in court wrangling over airport expansion.
Council members said they still have doubts about the agreement, which requires three votes to pass.
“There’s things about this that I favor — conceptually I favor it — but really we have to weigh the pros and cons of all the different pieces of this,” City Councilman Dave Golonski said.
The agreement allows the city to force the sale of the 59 acres at the end of the 10 years.
Speakers at a town hall Wednesday at the Buena Vista Branch Library questioned why the city does not now force the sale of the acreage, which is part of a swath of land called the B6 property, between Hollywood Way and the north-south runway.
“That B6 property is like a gun — without that land, they can’t expand,” said Donna Stebbeds of Burbank.
Council members counter that, if the land is sold now, a developer could place a major project on the property that could clog Hollywood Way. Under the agreement, much of the land would remain vacant.
“If you don’t have a Wal-Mart that’s generating many thousands of trips every day, then indeed that’s less traffic,” said Mayor Marsha Ramos.
Under the accord, the airport would be blocked from expanding the existing terminal for seven years. However, extension of a taxiway would be permitted — a fact that City Councilman Todd Campbell acknowledged could result in more flights.
But the Airport Authority would take steps to improve air quality and reduce noise.
“This gives the authority the chance to be proactive in the community,” Campbell said. “If they lose that opportunity … I don’t think there ever would be a new terminal.”
Resident Mike Harrison, 58, who owns a sales and marketing business, said that he left Wednesday’s town hall forum convinced the city should force the sale of the 59 acres now.
“You sell the property; then you control things,” Harrison said.
“If you change this airport where there’s millions more people coming in and there’s more takeoffs … the property values for the whole city will decline and people like us will move out,” he said.
But city officials said that if, at the end of the agreement, the airport starts designing a new terminal on the 59 acres Burbank controls, the city would have greater say over the size of the terminal than if the airport builds on its own land.
Most who spoke at the forum opposed the agreement.
Burbank resident Bill Kneisel, 80, a retired United Airlines employee, also had concerns about the agreement, but his worry was that it would totally block terminal improvements.
“If nothing else, we certainly need a totally new terminal building. Where you want to locate it I don’t care, but by gosh let’s get something modern,” Kneisel said.
IF YOU GO: The Burbank City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m Tuesday at 275 E. Olive Ave.