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Aviation Watch takes airport case to LUBA

Oregon Aviation Watch has filed its latest legal challenge to the management of the Hillsboro Airport.

On Feb. 6, the nonprofit organization formally asked the state Land Use Board of Appeals to remand or reverse the Hillsboro City Council’s decision to remove a subchapter of the municipal code allowing it to regulate flying activities. The city has until Feb. 27 to respond. LUBA will then set a hearing on the matter.

The airport is owned and operated by the Port of Portland. The council removed the provisions on Dec. 4 as part of a comprehensive review and update of the code. At the time, the council was advised that the subchapter was outdated because federal law preempts local regulation of flying activities at airports.

“The Federal Aviation Act provides that ‘[t]he United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States,” according to a legal analysis provided to the council.

The OAW brief contradicts that, arguing that exemptions in the federal law allow some local regulations of airports. The organization has long complained about the noise and exhaust fumes from the small airplanes and helicopters used by students at Hillsboro Aviation, a flight school based at the airport.

“Although federal aviation preemption may regulate many local regulations and ordinances, it does not regulate an airport’s ability to approve future uses of land for airports, and it does not preempt intrastate aviation activities,” according to the 55-page brief.

The OWA brief also argues that removing the provisions was a land use decision that required a public hearing, which the council did not hold. Joining OWA in the appeal were Hillsboro resident Ruth Warren and board members Michelle Barnes and Jim Lubisher.

The city had not filed its response by press time. Hillsboro spokeswoman Barbara Simon says it will include a challenge to the petitioners’ legal standing before LUBA to file the appeal.




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