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Airport Project Foes Lose Appeal

LOS ANGELES

Burbank: Board rejects plea by citizens group, which contends planned expansion would exceed federally mandated security measures.

August 28, 2002|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Burbank Planning Board has rejected a citizens group's attempts to prevent an expansion project at Burbank Airport, city officials said Tuesday.

The board late Monday voted 4 to 1 against appeals by expansion opponents, who believe the airport is using a federal mandate on security improvements as an excuse for excessive growth.

The board based its decision on grounds that the project complies with Burbank municipal codes, said Michael Forbes, associate planner for the city.

Airport officials say their planned 40,000-square-foot expansion of the 173,000-square-foot main terminal building--which was stopped by Burbank officials Friday because the airport lacked building permits--is necessary to meet a Dec. 31 federal deadline to upgrade airport security.

Airport officials concede that some of their proposed enhancements exceed federal requirements to improve baggage and passenger screening, but they insist the entire project involves passenger security and safety.

Anti-growth activists, however, aren't buying that argument.

The project offers some security enhancements, but "the rest of it is just an expanded terminal to make it more convenient and comfortable for the public," said Howard Rothenbach, chairman of the anti-expansion group, Restore Our Airport Rights.

Rothenbach, whose appeal of an earlier Burbank city staff decision approving the expansion project was denied Monday night by the Planning Board, said he would next appeal to the Burbank City Council, which will likely take up the matter next month.

If the council denies further appeals, city staff would be expected to decide whether the proposed airport improvements "directly relate to, or are spun off from the new security requirements imposed on the airport" before issuing building permits, said Sue Georgino, the city's director of community planning.

Victor Gill, an airport spokesman, said it will be difficult to complete the mandated security improvements in the next few months.

"It's fairly certain now we cannot meet the federal year-end deadline," Gill said.

"We aspired to comply with the requirements of federal law. That goal is ... now out of reach. We will simply try to achieve the best results possible under the current circumstances."

Although federal law requires compliance by the end of the year, the House of Representatives has approved a bill to extend the deadline a year.

Similar legislation is pending in the Senate. Earlier this month, 133 airports asked the Senate for an extension. Burbank was not among them.

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