Burbank officials on Wednesday disqualified a petition that could have stalled construction of a new $300-million Burbank airport terminal, saying that the document failed to meet state requirements for ballot initiatives.
The initiative by the group calling itself Restore Our Airport Rights did not include the names of two chief proponents, former Burbank City Councilman Ted McConkey and Howard Rothenbach, city officials said.
"It is extremely difficult for me to reject this petition because I know the great lengths that you and all of the participating citizens have gone to," Burbank City Clerk Judie Sarquiz wrote in a March 15 letter to the two men.
"Based on the advice from the city attorney," she added, "I have no choice but to reject the petition as it fails comply with Elections Code."
Burbank City Atty. Dennis Barlow said that, according to state law, signers of an initiative petition have the right to know who the proponents are before they sign. "Those names were just not included on the petitions, " he said.
The group said Tuesday that it submitted 7,400 signatures to the city clerk for a measure that would bar the City Council from approving a terminal exceeding 200,000 square feet. The group needed at least 5,214 valid signatures, or 10% of registered voters in Burbank, to qualify for the city's next scheduled election in February 2001.
Despite the city's action, McConkey said he believed that the form of the petition was in compliance with the election code. He said a lawyer retained by the group was looking at the city's opinion.
"I can't say that I expected this to happen less than 24 hours after we turned it in," McConkey said. "But we knew this was going to be under the microscope."
The initiative was designed to kill a tentative agreement for a 330,000-square-foot, 14-gate terminal to replace the existing 170,000-square-foot facility. The deal, negotiated by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and city officials last year, must still be approved by the City Council.
Airport officials have proposed building a new terminal to better meet passenger demand and relocate the existing 1930s-era facility, which federal officials say is too close to the existing runway.
City and airport negotiators signed a tentative deal to do just that in August but the plan has been held up by numerous opponents, including Burbank residents, the airlines, Los Angeles political leaders and the Federal Aviation Administration.
City and airport officials tried to make their agreement more palatable by limiting the operating hours of the terminal and using $1.5 million in passenger fees to offset lost property taxes and permanently ban easterly takeoffs.
Opponents said that wasn't enough and began collecting signatures for the measure, which would have also imposed a mandatory 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and a 10% cap on future flights and passengers.