Paine Field passenger terminal to get grading permit

EVERETT — Snohomish County is preparing to issue a grading permit for a passenger air terminal at Paine Field, a step that could mark a final turning point in the contentious fight over allowing regular commercial flights at the county-run airport.

A formal notice was expected to be published Sunday. The county determined that the proposed 29,000-square foot terminal with two gates would have no significant environmental impact.

The county plans to accept comments on the decision through March 13.

The county is not requiring a full environmental impact study under the land-use decision. The mitigated determination of non-significance, as this type of decision is known, could require special measures to address traffic and other impacts.

New York-based Propeller Airports entered into an option-to-lease agreement with the county to build the terminal nearly two years ago. The facility would occupy about 11 acres between the airport’s administrative offices and control tower. Architectural plans show a building with a lodge-like look.

Under its lease agreement, Propeller has until March 2018 to design the terminal and perform environmental studies. CEO Brett Smith has said he hopes to break ground later this year. The 30-year contract could eventually bring the county about $429,000 per year in rent. It includes two optional 10-year extensions.

The city of Mukilteo and the Save Our Communities neighborhood group have lost a series of court battles over the terminal.

A state appeals court in January rejected a request to void the lease contract. A panel of three federal judges last year denied an appeal challenging the Federal Aviation Administration finding that the proposed number of flights would have no significant impact on surrounding communities.

A major concern for the opposition is that the number of flights could grow over time, causing more noise pollution, heavier traffic and lower property values.

Mukilteo officials have vowed to limit the project through administrative means. Last year they asked the county to consider a program to direct flights away from noise-sensitive areas.

Propeller’s noise studies look at a combined 20 takeoffs and landings per day by aircraft sized to carry 76 passengers. Another 20 weekly combined takeoffs and landings are studied from 150-seat aircraft.

The airport already averages more than 300 takeoffs and landings per day from existing operations, including general aviation, Boeing Co. airplanes and Aviation Technical Services.

Propeller’s noise consultant examined impacts from specific aircraft: the Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop, the McDonnell Douglas MD-83, the Boeing 737 and the Embraer E175.

The terminal would generate nearly 1,000 new car trips per day, with 212 trips at peak hours, Propeller’s traffic consultant estimated.

Plans show about 570 parking spaces.

A Snohomish County website contains documents and other updates about the terminal project: www.snohomishcountywa.gov/3651/Propeller-Project-at-Paine-Field.

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

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