Fears about expansion of commercial flights at Paine Field, if not grounded, are at least in a holding pattern following an emotional community meeting.
“I’m much more comfortable with (Snohomish County Executive Aaron) Reardon’s position on this than in the past,” said Meadowdale-area resident and activist John Quast.
Reardon on May 5 told an impassioned crowd of about 400 at Olympic View Middle School in Mukilteo that there is no plan in hand to bring regional jet service to the county airport. He said that in his 2003 campaign, he opposed bringing commercial passenger service to Paine Field.
“I did not support expansion. My position has not changed,” Reardon told the crowd. Uses at Paine Field are guided by an agreement approved by the county in 1978-79 known as the Mediated Role Determination (MRD).
The meeting was organized by Save Our Communities, a Mukilteo-based organization opposed to starting commercial airline service at the airport. It was Reardon’s first meeting with the organization that has members in three counties and fought expansion of Paine Field since 1992.
Despite Reardon’s assurance, the issue gained prominence after a series of recent presentations to community groups by airport director Dave Waggoner mentioning the possibility of commercial flights.
Following one such presentation in April, the board of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed adding commercial passenger flights, saying the move would promote business growth.
Quast said concerns and confusion grew when some county officials said they were “just following through” with initiatives started in 2002 under former county Executive Bob Drewel.
“Then, you’ve got the County Council, with members invariably saying they support the MRD,” Quast said. “The problem is Waggoner and some staff have suggested the MRD makes no reference to commercial service. Because it’s not explicitly stated, in some sense it’s OK to go ahead and do that.”
Reardon said he would work with officials from cities near the airport and present a binding agreement to the County Council. He didn’t specify a timeline for the process.
Some in the audience pressed County Council Chairman Gary Nelson of Edmonds, who was standing at the back of the crowd, to support such a contract.
“It’s fine with me,” Nelson said.
State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, attended the meeting.
“I felt a little surprised that such a specific and direct question was asked and answered at a meeting like that,” Roberts said. “(Reardon) was very clear.”
Although an opponent of expanding Paine Field service, Roberts said she doesn’t think the Legislature should be involved. Roberts said she voted against a bill that would’ve funded a study of airport capacity.
The Edmonds City Council has adopted a position opposing expansion of commercial flights at Paine Field. The Lynnwood City Council has considered the issue but not adopted a position. The Mountlake Terrace City Council was schedule to hear presentation from Quast and Waggoner at the May 12 meeting, after The Enterprise deadline.
Quast said the May 5 meeting did much to allay his concerns.
“I’m optimistic, my level of skepticism has decreased,” Quast said. “Reardon stated very clearly he’d work with city government to come up with an interlocal agreement to clarify the MRD.
“I felt better about the meeting after than I did before. The devil’s in the details, of course.”
Brian Kelly and Bill Sheets of The Herald contributed to this story.