Two members of the Board of Supervisors warned Tuesday that the Oxnard Airport--the county’s only commercial airport--could ultimately be shut down if the city of Oxnard allows any further residential development in the surrounding area.
Supervisor John Flynn, speaking at a board meeting Tuesday, said the time has come to decide the future of the controversial airport, the largest of two publicly owned airports in the county.
“I see a great collision in the making,” Flynn, who represents the city of Oxnard, said later. “At the same time as more homes are coming into the area the activity at the airport is increasing.”
Flynn urged the board to consider the Oxnard Airport issue in detail this fall, a request that was accepted by the board with little opposition.
But Supervisor Maggie Erickson, who represents Camarillo, where the county’s smaller airport is located, said she does not yet consider the closing of the Oxnard Airport a serious consideration.
“But in the long term, if the city of Oxnard continues to allow development near the airport it will be harder and harder to keep it open,” Erickson said.
The county owns and operates the Oxnard and Camarillo airports, but the cities control land use surrounding them. While Camarillo has been careful to keep residential development out of the airport’s path, Oxnard has not, Erickson said.
That sets the county up for lawsuits from disgruntled homeowners who grow weary of the roar of engines, the supervisors said.
The board fears future lawsuits from residents who move into the Blueberry Park development, 73 upscale houses to be built 1,000 feet south of the closest Oxnard airport runway.
Flynn said he doubts that the airport can remain viable if any similar developments are approved.
But one developer, Wilshire West, has already requested that the city annex another 16 acres near the airport where Wilshire would like to build about 70 homes. That decision is months away, officials said.
“The Oxnard airport is valuable to the county if, and only if, it can be protected from encroaching development,” Flynn said. “Otherwise, it is simply not a compatible land use.”
Oxnard City Councilwoman Dorothy Maron said Flynn is right to want to curtail further development near the airport.
“We can’t really stop something that is under way,” she said of the Blueberry Park development. “But I want to stop everything farther east than that project.”
Maron asked city staff to look for grant money to buy the remaining undeveloped property near the airport. Flynn suggested that the county look into a similar plan, possibly seeking funds from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Flynn’s call for a decision on the closure of the airport came as the board voted to impose an agreement on homebuyers at Blueberry Park, where houses could be ready for residents in about a year.
The agreement, which would be included in escrow papers signed by the buyer at the time of sale, states that homeowners may not sue the county because of airport noise. It also states that buyers agree not to install any electronic or electrical devices in their houses that would interfere with airport activity.
Supervisors also asked the county staff and legal counsel to specify exactly how far the board can go to require that prospective homeowners are notified in advance of inevitable airport noise.
“I want to ensure that people are notified clearly so that when lawsuits come up, the county has shown diligence,” Chairwoman Madge L. Schaefer said.
Tuesday’s discussion was the latest in a long series of disputes over the county’s largest airport, which is at 5th Street east of Victoria Avenue in Oxnard.
For years, Oxnard High School, about half a mile east of the airport, has complained of disruptive airport noise. The Oxnard Union High School District would prefer that the airport move but has begun looking for new locations for the high school instead, City Planner Matthew Winegar said.
Oxnard businesses want an expanded regional airport, preferably in or near Oxnard but not necessarily at the present site, Winegar said. The County Airports Department, private pilots and commercial airlines want the city to curtail residential development so the airport and the county are not threatened with legal action by unhappy neighbors.
Residents who already live near the airport, especially to the south where runway noise is most noticeable, want the airport to close down or curtail its activity.
City officials, on the other hand, include the airport in the city General Plan and expect it to continue to operate at its present location, Winegar said. But the city does not want the airport or its operations to grow beyond their present level.
Erickson said Tuesday that imposing a non-litigation agreement on homeowners will do little to protect the county if residents decide to sue over airport noise.
She likened the agreement to notes that parents sign allowing their schoolchildren to go on field trips.
“If something happened, they would sue the school or do whatever they wanted to do anyway,” said Erickson, a former schoolteacher.
Total number of passengers in 1989 departing from area airports: Oxnard: 27,548 Santa Barbara: 323,713 Long Beach: 693,535 Burbank Airport: 1,368,845 Los Angeles Intl: 22,634,975