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Burbank Raises New Hurdle for Airport Project

Aviation: Demand for another environmental impact study will further delay plans to build a 14-gate terminal.


BURBANK — Threatening to further delay the new Burbank Airport terminal, the city of Burbank has told airport officials it will prepare a new environmental impact report on the project.

The 1993 environmental study is out of date, said Peter Kirsch, special counsel for Burbank on airport issues. Since then, airline flights and ground vehicle traffic have increased, and there have been changes in aircraft noise patterns, Kirsch said.

Kirsch said the city is preparing to do its own environmental update because the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority has declined, contending it is unnecessary.

"The Airport Authority has refused to do a new EIR," Kirsch said. "We informed them in writing Friday that we are going to prepare an environmental study, which is a matter of state law. We will also expect them to pay the costs, which they are required to do under Burbank ordinances."

Airport Authority spokesman Victor Gill said airport officials were reviewing Burbank's letter but could not say what their response would be. Nevertheless, he said some airport officials were puzzled by the city's action.

"The terminal project that we are now proposing has been cut almost in half in terms of its size, and the number of gates is unchanged," Gill said. "There's no way that project could have a greater impact from what has already been approved under California and federal law, not to mention the fact that it has withstood all legal challenges."

The airport has been trying to overhaul the 70-year-old terminal--which is too near the east-west runway to meet modern safety standards--since 1980.

Airport and Burbank city officials were hoping to avoid a formal noise study when they reached an August 1999 deal to build a new 14-gate terminal in exchange for plans to shut it down between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

But those hopes evaporated after a proposed development agreement between the city of Burbank and the airport fell apart when they failed to come to terms by the May 24, 2000 deadline. As a result, the airport is required to put the land for the proposed terminal up for sale.

The property has not sold yet, and the authority is still awaiting a response to its application to develop the site.


Last month, however, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority identified an alternate site that officials said could be developed without discretionary approval by the city.

The new 41-acre site, near North Hollywood on the southwest side of the airport, is owned by the Airport Authority and leased to tenants including private aircraft charter companies.

Airport officials said Burbank's power to control development of the alternate site would be much more limited, because the land is already owned by the airport and designated for airport uses.

But Kirsch said the alternate plan is not a viable option.

"There's nothing formal about that proposal other than musings by the Airport Authority staff," Kirsch said. "We have no reason to believe that it has any significance."

Burbank officials acknowledged the new environmental study could push back a City Council vote on the terminal project at least six months from the current planned vote this spring.

It also threatens to further damage relations between the city and the airport, which had been attempting to work together since August 1999 to get a terminal built.

"If [the city is] attempting to communicate that they don't want the project, the message is starting to come through loud and clear," Gill said. "What else could we put on the table?"

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