Hillsboro does not have the legal authority to regulate the airspace above the Hillsboro Airport.

City officials made that assertion to the state Land Use Board of Appeals last month in response to an effort by Oregon Aviation Watch — a Banks-based nonprofit that serves as a watchdog group on aviation issues — to reverse a city council vote. The vote that sparked the controversy repealed a subchapter of the city’s municipal code that allowed Hillsboro to regulate flying activities.

The OAW claims the vote was a land-use matter that required a public hearing, which was not held. Hillsboro officials disagreed, saying it was not a land-use matter.

A LUBA hearing on the issue was scheduled for March 13. No date has been set for LUBA to make a decision.

The airport is owned and operated by the Port of Portland. The council voted to repeal the subchapter on Dec. 4, 2012, after city attorneys said it was outdated because federal law preempts local regulation of flying activities at airports.

OAW appealed the decision to LUBA on Feb. 6. The city responded on March 6.

In its response to LUBA, city officials said the “petitioners have failed to demonstrate that federal law permits local jurisdictions to regulate ‘intrastate’ aircraft operations, and have certainly failed to make this demonstration relative to local jurisdictions like Hillsboro, who do not own or operate an airport.”

City officials also argued that LUBA does not have jurisdiction over the vote because it was not a land-use matter.

“If LUBA determines the decision is a land-use decision over which it has jurisdiction, the city respectfully requests the Board to affirm the city’s decision,” read an excerpt from the city’s response.

The nonprofit OAW has long complained about noise and exhaust fumes from the small airplanes and helicopters used by students at Hillsboro Aviation, a flight school based at the airport. It also opposes federal funds being spent to expand airport operations.

Joining OAW in the appeal of the council vote were Hillsboro resident Ruth Warren and board members Michelle Barnes and Jim Lubisher.

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