Rick Jenness is a veteran of the fight that’s lasted longer than the Thirty Years War.
Now 66, Jenness was 35 in 1988 when he spoke to The Herald about homeowners’ efforts to block airline service at the county-owned airport. At the time, he was involved in a push to incorporate land south of Mukilteo. The aim was to boost the area’s clout in their effort to prevent passenger service at Paine.
“I feel bad for those people who bought expensive homes under the departure path of PAE and are still there,” said Jenness, who moved from Mukilteo to Edmonds 20 years ago.
“The biggest, most important investment of their life is going to steadily decline in value as more and more flights and airlines start flying out of Paine Field,” he said Tuesday. “Big commercial developers will make a ton of money at the expense of many ordinary working people.”
Mukilteo’s Mike Moore is president of Save Our Communities. Since the early 1990s, the group has opposed Paine Field expansion. Moore, 63, said he fears that the combined 24 daily departures from Everett now scheduled by Alaska and United airlines represent “the camel’s nose under the tent” — just the beginning of what he expects will be much more passenger traffic.
“A lot of people have a right to be concerned about property values,” Moore said Tuesday. “San Diego, with one runway, has 600 flights a day, 600 flights co-mingled with general aviation. That’s the extreme.”
At some tipping point, he said, “it starts causing a lot more impact.”
“Who’s going to pay for that mitigation? It becomes a downward spiral when house prices don’t go up as much, or go down. We lose tax revenue,” Moore said. “Years down the road, what’s it all going to look like?”
I told Moore what I’ve written about the airport over the years: I favor commercial airline service at Paine Field. Mostly, I’ve wanted to fly to my native Spokane from Everett. Recently, I shared with Herald readers my disappointment that my hometown isn’t on Alaska’s Paine Field schedule. Even so, I’m celebrating Snohomish County’s better access to air travel, and the economic benefits many believe it will bring.
That said, I know Moore speaks for thousands who agree with the dogged efforts of Save Our Communities. They’ll continue to worry about how airline service at Paine Field will affect them.
Save Our Communities evolved from a petition drive launched in 1992 by Loretta Jackson, then a Mukilteo City Council member. Back then, 10,000 people signed a petition to express their concerns that passenger flights would increase noise, air pollution and traffic, and lower property values.
That was 27 years ago. Today, for many, those fears remain.
Dr. Scott Casselman, a retired radiologist, spoke out at public meetings against a passenger airport. He once ran, unsuccessfully, for Mukilteo City Council. “I’ve had critics say we knew there was an airport here when we moved here,” said Casselman, a Mukilteo resident for 30-plus years. “My answer is, Mukilteo is and was one of the most beautiful places on the planet.”
Those opposed to airport expansion argued for years that they settled in the area because of a 1978 agreement by residents and county officials to discourage major airline service to Paine Field. Yet, there came a point when it seemed inevitable, Casselman said. Commercial air traffic was coming.
Actually, Monday’s passenger flights weren’t the first. Starting in November 1987, for one year, Port Angeles-based San Juan Airlines operated a Paine-to-Portland flight. There have been unsuccessful attempts, by Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air and in 2008 by Horizon Air, to start up service from Paine Field.
Moore is unhappy that an environmental impact statement wasn’t required before commercial service began. “It’s pretty important for the public trust,” he said, adding that a more comprehensive assessment would take into account “the concept of incremental and cumulative impacts.”
“My concern the whole time is not a handful of flights, but once they open the door where possibly this could go,” he said.
Moore said his work takes him often to Portland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. But citing limited options from Paine Field, he said he doesn’t plan to fly from Snohomish County.
Former Mukilteo City Councilman Kevin Stoltz, 57, was involved in opposing the Paine Field airport but now has another issue. “I’ve been trying to resolve the Dreamlifter flights in the middle of the night,” he said. Once a noise staff engineer with the Boeing Co., Stoltz said he’s been in touch with his former employer about 3 a.m. take-offs of the Dreamlifter, a 747-400 large cargo freighter.
“That’s the big thing I’ve been focusing on,” Stoltz said. His greatest concern about commercial service is also late-night hours. Stoltz often flies into California’s Hollywood Burbank Airport, which he said has a voluntary noise curfew.
As far as new passenger flights from the airport near his Mukilteo home, “the jury’s still out,” said Stoltz, who’s glad the airliners are small ones. “We seriously considered moving, but we’re going to have to see how the early-morning flights affect us.”
Casselman, too, has a wait-and-see attitude.
“The only thing I am currently concerned about is the future for Mukilteo,” Casselman said. “What all parties, including myself, need to do now is work together for the best possible outcomes for Snohomish County.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.