LYNNWOOD — Passenger service at Paine Field received a public airing Monday night at a Federal Aviation Administration hearing, and the crowd was contentious, with proponents and opponents raising familiar arguments.
The information session and public hearing on the impact of commercial airline service in Everett drew more than 150 participants at the Lynnwood Convention Center. It was one of a series of required steps to certify the airport for airline use.
The agency is seeking comment on a supplemental environmental assessment it released last month. Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have proposed a combined 24 flights per day to cities throughout the West from Everett.
The draft report found no significant issues that need to be addressed, which could clear the way for service to begin early in 2019. The report’s finding, however, is not final, and it didn’t stop area residents from questioning its scope, especially the conclusions related to noise and traffic.
During public testimony, Les Nelson, of Mukilteo, called the report “incomplete.” It didn’t properly address noise issues beyond the airport, he said.
John Spittle, of Lynnwood, urged the airport and the FAA to create a noise abatement program “like at Sea-Tac.”
Others criticized the study for failing to take into account the likelihood of reduced property values because of increased noise and traffic.
“It’s naive to believe that it’s only going to be 24 planes a day and smaller aircraft — there’s going to be more jets … It’s only going to get worse,” said Nate Raring, who said he lives near Brier. “The jets are already loud. It wakes us up in the middle of the night.”
Still others called for a more comprehensive study that would be accomplished by a more-involved environmental impact statement.
“I know it takes longer and more money, but I think we’d be a lot safer and better for it,” said Guy Fleischer, of Brier.
Airport supporters also had their say.
“This airport opens up a lot of opportunity for the area,” said Don Amor, of Mukilteo.
Direct impacts include “visitor spending” and “business transactions” that benefit the community, Amor said, adding: “We cannot avoid change.”
Patrick Pierce, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, said the advent of passenger flights would “bolster the economy.”
Before the two-hour hearing, staff from Environmental Science Associates, the firm hired by the three airlines to conduct the environmental study, answered questions about the report.
The largest and most vocal crowds gathered around the posters illustrating the impacts of noise and traffic. The study’s traffic studies were done by Gibson Traffic Associates.
Everett-based Propeller Airports is nearing completion of a two-gate terminal and has invested some $40 million in the 30,000-square-foot building on the east side of the airport, near the control tower.
Sometime after the public comment period, the FAA is expected to issue a decision ratifying the report’s findings or requiring more scrutiny.
There is no “set time for the final decision,” FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said Monday. “Each is different, depending upon the complexity of the situation.”
Before any decision is issued, Environmental Science Associates and other firms that prepared the report must respond to every comment and publish the answers. Those responses will be added to the draft and be available for viewing on Paine Field’s website, www.painefield.com. Written comments will be accepted through Friday at email@example.com.
Comments also can be mailed to the firm at Environmental Science Associates; Paine Field Supplemental EA; 5309 Shilshole Ave. NW, Suite 200; Seattle, WA 98107.
The draft environmental assessment can be viewed at the county’s Paine Field website; at the Paine Field administrative office; and at public libraries in Everett, Mukilteo and Lynnwood.
There has been community opposition to passenger service at Paine Field in the past, with increased noise and auto traffic cited most frequently as concerns. The city of Mukilteo and an organization called Save Our Communities unsuccessfully sued to block airline service. Litigation ended in 2017.