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Burbank Terminal Put in Holding Pattern

March 27, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

After years of contention, the Burbank City Council has voted to suspend efforts toward building a new terminal for Burbank Airport until possibly 2005, when the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to decide whether the airfield could adopt nighttime flight curfews to reduce noise.

"It's time to take a step back away from the airport," Vice Mayor Stacey Murphy said Wednesday.

But by the time the FAA renders a decision on curfews, Murphy acknowledged, the issue of a new terminal may be moot.

Last month, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey -- appearing exasperated by the years of litigation and political fighting that have immobilized the terminal project -- told local officials that they had 60 days to decide whether to build a terminal, or return more than $40 million to the FAA.

The money has already been used by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to help fund the purchase of a 130-acre parcel adjacent to the airport, a portion of which was to be the new terminal site.

The FAA deadline is now a month away.

One way to repay the FAA is to sell part or all of the land, airport officials said.

Many said they believe that selling the land would kill the terminal project because other nearby parcels would not be feasible.

Burbank Mayor David Laurell said the city would help the airport find ways to lease the land.

But airport commissioners said they doubted that that would generate enough money to repay the FAA.

Tuesday night's vote by the Burbank City Council is the latest twist in the saga over the airport's terminal replacement project.

Last November, airport commissioners voted to drop their two-decade effort to build the larger terminal because they believed there was too much community opposition.

But Burbank officials pushed to revive the project, saying they believed the FAA would be more likely to permit flight curfews -- something long sought by Burbank voters -- if a new and safer terminal could be built in exchange.

In a Washington meeting last month, Blakey told a local delegation -- which included officials from Burbank, Pasadena and Glendale -- that the FAA considered curfews and a new terminal to be separate matters.

Now, the ball is essentially back in the court of the airport authority. "If we don't come up with a plan, we'll have to give the money back to the FAA," said Charles Lombardo, vice president of the authority.

Authority President Chris Holden said he plans to ask the FAA for more time so that the city can put the matter to residents for a vote "to bring some resolution to this sooner rather than later."

A Burbank law, Measure B, requires voter approval for a new terminal to be built.

But airport Commissioner John Crowley said he viewed Burbank's vote as "quiet assent" for the authority to go ahead and sell the land.

"We should seek to sell the property," Crowley said.

Airport commissioners said they would not make any decisions until they meet again. Their next meeting is April 7.

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