Airport growth will be studied

EVERETT – The panel studying possible Paine Field expansion is ready to do some serious work.

The group this week will discuss hiring a consultant to study the pros and cons of commercial flights at the county-run airport.

The study will look at exactly how an increase in flights would affect property values and development surrounding the airport.

“We need some expert help to deal with this on a factual basis,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, who co-chairs the panel along with Mukilteo’s former mayor, Don Doran. “There’s a lot of emotion on this subject.”

Snohomish County will pay for the study, with the cost yet to be determined, and hopes to hire the consultant by June, county staff member Peter Camp said. No timetable has been set for completion of the study.

Noise won’t be studied because projections have already been developed by the airport, Camp said.

The panel of 12 local elected officials and businesspeople was appointed last year by County Executive Aaron Reardon to review a 1979 agreement by local governments discouraging passenger flights at Paine Field.

Airport expansion opponents have said the agreement is a binding document, while county officials and others have said federal law would trump any local opposition.

Though no formal proposal has been made to add commercial flights to Paine Field, a county study in 2004 and a consultant’s study for the airport indicate that demand could exist. Some in the business community are championing the idea.

Reardon appointed the committee last year when opposition roared to life.

The panel’s first four meetings focused on providing information to panel members about airport operations, noise and the history of the expansion issue.

Doran, who staunchly opposes expanding the airport, said he was frustrated by the panel’s slow start. He also was uncomfortable with the consultant idea, he said, when the panel’s original mission was to study the 1979 agreement.

Now, he’s convinced the group is on the right track and that the consultant’s study will be worthwhile.

“I do get a different feel,” Doran said. The study can “provide us with a real picture, a full picture of what we’re dealing with.” It could also show the downside of expansion as a counter to the economic benefits touted by proponents, he said.

Other opponents aren’t so sure.

The study seems like a distraction from the panel’s mission, said Barbara Ward, spokeswoman for Save Our Communities, the Mukilteo-based opposition group. Doran is also a member.

“I’m a little puzzled as to exactly what they’re trying to accomplish,” Ward said. “The whole point of the panel is to review the (agreement).”

That will happen eventually, Doran said. “The glass is always half full for me, I’m not going to assume a negative until it becomes very obvious to me,” he said.

Stephanson said he’s heard the whole spectrum of opinions from Everett residents, from a study group last year that supported commercial flights to those who live closer to Paine Field who have concerns.

That’s why the study will help, Stephanson said, citing “the need to be objective.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or

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