Airport land-use bill would give teeth to current law

February 4, 2010

Washington State’s public-use airports would be protected from incompatible development under a bill being considered in the Senate.

Under current law, counties must consider incompatible land use in their plans, but the bill, S.B. 6603, would prohibit it around an airport. AOPA Northwest Regional Representative Mike Ferguson went to Olympia to testify before the Senate Transportation Committee in support of the bill Jan. 28.

“The existing statute is permissive. Some communities have followed it, but others have not. The new bill would put some teeth on existing law,” Ferguson said, explaining afterward why AOPA spoke out in support of the bill. Washington Pilots Association President John Dobson, Washington Department of Transportation Director of Aviation John Sibold, and state and local officials also testified in favor of the bill.

The bill would prohibit development such as housing, K-12 education facilities, and hospitals adjacent to public-use GA airports. This type of encroachment would compromise the future effectiveness of the airports and chill the business climate, proponents of the bill said; the voluntary guidelines currently on the books are not enough.

The proposed legislation would define the responsibility of local government to protect public-use airports; it is consistent with recommendations from the Long-Term Air Transportation Study (LATS) released in 2009, which proposed strengthening state law to protect general aviation airports. AOPA advocated for strong wording to ensure that compatible land uses are incorporated around GA airports.