Paine commercial flights must meet noise, traffic edicts

EVERETT — Pilots flying to and from a future Paine Field airport passenger terminal would be asked to avoid routes over residential areas and to limit late-night or early morning trips, under a plan that Snohomish County is poised to approve.

County planners said Sunday they’re prepared to issue a grading permit for the two-gate terminal. That’s a significant step toward construction and eventual flights. The New York company seeking to build the project hopes to be up and running next year.

“We will be serving passengers in 2018,” Propeller Airports CEO Brett Smith said.

Noise impacts are one of the focal points in the county decision to issue the project an approval known as a mitigated determination of non-significance. That means work on the terminal can move forward if Propeller Airports complies with conditions to lessen impacts. Planners also looked at storm runoff in the Japanese Gulch basin, traffic and other likely effects.

The decision can be appealed to the hearing examiner. The deadline is March 13. The hearing examiner’s decision can be appealed to a superior court.

Propeller will need a building permit before starting construction of the terminal. No building permit application has been submitted, county spokesman Kent Patton said.

Discussions between Propeller Airports and Mukilteo city leaders shaped some of the ideas for lessening noise and other impacts on neighbors.

“We’ve been talking to the mayor to try to meet her goals and the community’s goals,” Smith said. “We hope that will be an ongoing conversation. Our door is open to discuss these issues as necessary.”

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson confirmed the sides have had talks. City officials still have more work ahead before deciding whether the proposed steps are adequate.

“We’ll have to look it over and do a review to see if it’s sufficient, but those are some of the things we’ve been asking for,” Gregerson said.

The terminal would take shape on about 11 acres between the airport’s control tower and an existing terminal building. Propeller has an option to lease that land for 30 years, with two optional 10-year extensions. The county stands to get about $429,000 in yearly rent once the lease kicks in.

A state appeals court on Monday declined to reconsider its earlier decision to turn down a request to void the lease on legal grounds. Mukilteo and a community group brought the challenge.

The building’s 29,300 square feet of interior space would house areas for check-in, security screening, a passenger lounge and boarding. Up to 50 people would work there.

The terminal would be reachable by 100th Street SW and Airport Road. Propeller must coordinate with Everett Transit for bus service. It also must pay about $330,000 in combined traffic-impact fees to the county, the state Department of Transportation and the city of Mukilteo. There would be about 600 parking stalls and four charging stations for electric cars.

Under the approval decision, Propeller must work with air carriers and Paine Field administrators on a program to minimize noise from departing aircraft. The company also must seek agreements with air carriers to limit flights between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to no more than four within 24-hour period. The restriction does not apply to schedule changes for weather or mechanical problems.

Propeller does not have to take the costly and time-consuming step of preparing an environmental impact statement. The county is relying on the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2012 environmental assessment that examined the likely impacts of up to two-dozen takeoffs and landings per day. The FAA study already has withstood a challenge in federal court from Mukilteo, Edmonds, the Save Our Communities neighborhood group and two people suing as individuals.

Propeller is looking at fewer flights than what the FAA studied: a maximum of 16 combined daily takeoffs and landings. That would bring in up to 3,600 passengers per day.

Opponents of allowing regular commercial flights out of Paine Field have said they’re worried about large-scale expansion over time. Propeller says it has no such intentions. For any significant increase in the number of flights, further federal studies would be needed beyond the 2012 environmental assessment.

“There are no plans for future additions or expansions related to this proposal at this time,” Propeller’s chief operating officer, Mark Reichin, wrote in a environmental checklist last year.

Regional aircraft and narrow-body jets would serve routes. No destinations or carriers have been announced.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Learn more:

Snohomish County has posted planning documents about Propeller Airport’s Paine Field passenger terminal project at:

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