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Port kicks off airport master plan update

A mix of local officials, consultants, land developers and aviation business owners staged the first meeting Wednesday night in what promises to be at least a year-long process toward updating the master plan for Scappoose Industrial Airpark.

Fundamentally, explained project manager Raines Anderson, the existing master plan approved in 2004 doesn’t reflect many of the changes that have occurred over the last nine years. Anderson is the WHPacific consultant hired by the Port of St. Helens to manage the update.

“There have been a number of projects that have taken place,” he said, pointing to ongoing land-use issues and economy-based changes in operations occurring at the airport. The bulk of the meeting was spent outlining the next steps in the master plan development, which is likely to take a year and a half until reaching final Port approval.

An airport master plan is a document intended to map airport use and growth over the next 20 years. It is also the guiding document for airport sponsors, in this case the Port of St. Helens, to receive airport-related improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration.

If new construction or other projects at Scappoose Industrial Airpark are included in a plan that receives FAA’s blessing, the Port can receive $150,000 annually from the federal agency toward those eligible projects. The Port can also compete for state and federal discretionary funds.

Equally, however, the FAA can withhold funding if it finds an airport is out of compliance with its planning goals. Such has been a possibility in the past when through-the-fence agreements have been considered at the Scappoose airport that would allow the construction of a residential airpark. A residential airpark would be a home residence that comes equipped with hangars and a taxiway to access the airport.

The problem is that the FAA has traditionally frowned on such developments, and only recently has become more agreeable toward through-the-fence permits for commercial businesses.

“Through-the-fence is a big issue, and the FAA on the [residential component] — they’re still holding a very firm line on that,” Anderson said.

Development goals that include a residential airpark component as proposed by off-airport land developer Airpark Development LLC, which controls nearly all of the privately held property adjacent to the airport, have been met with FAA — and consequently — Port opposition. The Port hasn’t wanted to risk losing a primary source of funds due to falling out of favor with the FAA. “I guess it’s a matter of the current FAA rules,” said Port Deputy Director Paula Miranda.

Ed Freeman, a partner in Airpark Development LLC, said the residential airpark plan is “not current.”

One other key factor likely to weigh on the new master plan includes the city’s urban growth boundary expansion.

Documents related to the master plan update are expected to be made available online at the Port’s website, www.portsh.org. The next meeting is scheduled for June 19.