Foes of airport expansion talk it out

Alicia Robinson

Residents belonging to two groups opposing expansion of John Wayne

Airport will get vocal at two meetings Wednesday, but they're

admittedly short on solutions for the passenger increases brought on

by the region's population growth.

Speak Up Newport, a nonprofit public education group, will feature

speaker Tom Naughton, president of the Airport Working Group, at its

monthly meeting. The Airport Working Group was a party to the city of

Newport Beach's settlement agreement that dictates how many

passengers the airport is allowed to have annually.

The agreement was renegotiated in 2003 to raise the passenger cap

to 10.3 million through 2011, after which it goes up to 10.8 million

passengers a year until 2015. Residents and city officials have

fought for restrictions on airport traffic to protect their

neighborhoods from noise.

Also on Wednesday, a group formed in 2002 called AirFair will give

its first public presentation on airport issues at a reception for

Costa Mesa City Council candidate Katrina Foley.

AirFair's goal is to make sure the 10.8-million passenger cap is

never increased, Chairwoman Melinda Seely said. She and other

residents chose to form their own group because the Airport Working

Group has continued to pursue an airport at the closed El Toro Marine

Air Base near Irvine, an option Orange County voters vetoed in 2002

when they approved rezoning the land as a park.

"We felt that that is a dead issue, and what we need to do is

protect ourselves, our property values and our lifestyle from any

more expansion of John Wayne Airport," Seely said.

Because of changing flight paths, more neighborhoods in Newport

Beach and Costa Mesa are suffering "airport discomfort," so AirFair

has enlisted support from homeowners' associations and in the future

might reach out to residents in other cities such as Orange and

Tustin, Seely said.

Naughton said he will discuss a 2004 regional-transportation plan

put together by local governments and how the region's growth will

mean more airplane passengers, but he said he's not sure what to do

about it.

"I don't have a solution, quite frankly," Naughton said. "I'd like

to present the problem to the people and let them come up with what

they think is the solution."

Seely said she doesn't have an answer to airport growth pressure

either, but the problem is one that elected officials, not residents,

should be working on.

"We're not trying to solve it," she said. "We're just trying to

say there are enough people concerned about the problem that the

officials in charge need to sit up and take notice."

There's no reason for people to worry about airport traffic right

now, Orange County Supervisor Tom Wilson said. The county owns the


John Wayne Airport has always had passenger caps and it's never

reached them, Wilson said.

"The ink's probably not even dry on the [settlement] agreement, so

I don't think anybody should be worried about that for at least 10

years," he said.

The AirFair meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the

home of Liz Parker, 307 Colleen Place, Costa Mesa. For information,


Speak Up Newport's monthly meeting is set for 6 p.m., with a

reception beginning at 5 p.m., Wednesday at the Newport Beach Yacht

Club, 1099 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach.

* ALICIA ROBINSON covers business, politics and the environment.

She may be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at

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