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Airport performs about-face on land

Laura Sturza

When the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority informally

agreed this week to send a letter to the Federal Aviation

Administration, asking for more time to make plans for a new

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terminal, its members might have broken the Brown Act.

The law governs what officials can discuss in closed-session

meetings and what must be reported to the public.

“We did take action, even though there was not a vote,” Burbank

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Airport Commissioner Don Brown said Tuesday morning of the

closed-session meeting the day before. “I’m trying to get a legal

opinion on it.”

The airport’s letter was a response to FAA Administrator Marion

Blakey’s 60-day deadline, which is Saturday, for the airport to

decide to build a new facility or return about $40 million in federal

grants. The airport spent the grant money in 1999 to buy the 130-acre

former Lockheed B-6 property for $86 million.

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After checking with City Atty. Dennis Barlow and airport attorney

Richard Simon, Brown said the lawyers agreed that the airport’s

letter did not break the law because the closed-session meeting dealt

with land purchase and litigation.

But Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper

Publishers Assn., disagreed.

"[In the meeting agenda], they didn’t identify the FAA as a party

with whom the Airport Authority negotiator was dealing,” Ewert said.

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“So the public had absolutely no idea that this was an action that

was pending.”

Barlow interpreted the law differently, and said that only certain

items are required to be reported out of closed session.

“One is the sale, purchase or lease of property in a final action

... [another is] final action in settlement of litigation,” Barlow

said. “They voted to send a letter to the FAA. This doesn’t fall into

any of those categories.”

The letter was signed by Airport Authority President Chris Holden.

“It’s not my understanding that it’s a violation of the Brown

Act,” Holden said. “There was not a vote so we did not report it in

that context.”

The letter, which was made public Tuesday, outlines a change of

direction from the airport’s November position on the improbability

of building a new terminal.

“It is now clear that local leaders from the cities of Burbank,

Glendale, and Pasadena -- while acknow- ledging some difficulties in

attaining a final local consensus -- are highly supportive of a

replacement terminal ... ,” Holden wrote to Blakey.

City officials had hoped to bargain a new terminal for an

overnight flight curfew, which can be granted only by the FAA. The

agency said it will not link a curfew to a new terminal, but the city

hopes a noise study scheduled to be finished next year will convince

the FAA to grant the curfew.

“The council still believes that the most prudent course would be

to retain the B-6 property for future options [for a terminal],”

Mayor David Laurell said.

The airport had said it needed a new terminal to comply with

federal guidelines requiring a distance of 750 feet between a

terminal and a runway. Burbank’s terminal is 300 feet away, but the

FAA deemed it safe.

It is too early for the FAA to respond to the airport’s request

for an extension on the deadline, spokesman Donn Walker said Tuesday

afternoon.

The Airport Authority plans to hold a special closed-session

meeting Thursday to continue talks about the property.


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