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City Orders Study on Electing Airport Officials : Government: Burbank also raises garbage fees and approves expansion plans for Castaway restaurant.


BURBANK — Heeding opponents of airport expansion, the Burbank City Council on Wednesday ordered a study of the possible popular election, rather than appointment, of airport commissioners.

During an often contentious meeting that stretched past 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the council also increased garbage fees over 10% and approved plans for an expanded The Castaway restaurant.

The central issue is whether two councilmen appointed to Burbank Airport's governing board can adequately balance the interests of the airport and city residents.

Opponents of plans to increase the size of the airport fourfold contend that Robert Bowne and George Battey Jr. cannot look after the public's interest while serving the airport's interest.

Electing airport commissioners would at least give the public greater input, some said.

"To me, it's of paramount importance to determine whether these offices are incompatible," Councilwoman Susan Spanos said during the meeting. "It's a fundamental policy question for our city."

The council directed the city attorney's office to prepare a report detailing any potential problems such a move might create.

During debate, Spanos frequently chided the city attorney's staff, contending that council members were never adequately briefed on the legal issues.

Spanos referred to earlier cases cited by the California attorney general, who has ruled city officials cannot hold two public positions if "the performance of the duties of either office could have an adverse effect on the other."

Several former and active council members have belonged to the Airport Authority since it was formed in 1977 under a Joint Powers Agreement among Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.

But conflict of interest has become an issue in Burbank, many say, because residents will be significantly affected by the airport's expansion plans.

Early Wednesday, Bowne and Battey sided with the majority of council members and agreed to have the city attorney's report done, citing a need to move forward on the issue.

"I don't have any problem with looking at the election" of airport commissioners in Burbank, Bowne said. "I think all three cities would have to agree" on it.

The council also approved a plan for a rebuilt Castaway restaurant that will be 3,303 square feet larger than the original, with additional patio space. Several restrictions were added, such as limiting the hours of operation for the restaurant and banquet rooms to appease nearby residents.

Garbage collection rates were raised 10.85% to help pay for $5.4 million in government-mandated projects that include ground-water treatment and landfill excavation. A homeowner with an average monthly bill of $12.77 can expect to see an increase of $1.39.

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