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Surprising Airport Futures

June 22, 2010

We spent about 3 hours tonight hearing testimony about Airport Futures. This is the new zoning and planning framework for Portland International Airport and the district around it.

The session was a study in contrasts. We heard about the unanimous recommendation and consensus in the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) and glowing reviews of the sensible planning and environmental goals for PDX.

Then we heard from a variety of neighbors, from residents to golf courses to industrial land owners, the vast majority of whom were very worried that the expanded environmental zoning was going to destroy either their property values or their way of life (“will they make me take out my vegetable garden?”).

Definitely a contrast.

Everyone is complimentary of the airport portion of the plan, but it would appear that despite a wide range of involvement and outreach, a lot of nearby stakeholders did not grasp the additional environmental zoning (which seems to have a firm foundation in the science) on the properties around the airport and adjoining Columbia Slough until VERY recently.

Staff will be doing a lot of outreach in the next couple of weeks (resolving issues like the gentleman’s vegetable garden, which is probably not threatened). Once the surprise is past and people accurately understand the impacts, I hope our continuation of the hearing on July 13th will narrow down the set of policy issues we need to sort out.

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One comment

  1. As Coordinator of Citywide Land Use Group and involved citizen, my concern is and will continue to be the quality of the effort to communicate with citizens who are not involved.

    When the effort involves changes to what can be done by property owners on their own property it is even more important to know the communication is getting through at both ends of the connection.

    I am still exploring the quality of the notice given to property owners about prospective environmental overlays. The quality involves the message as well as the delivery method used for the message. A postcard saying something may impact their property is not the same as saying a change is being proposed for allowed uses on your property.

    In today’s world of attention demanding messages in the mail and on the internet, the message has to get through. The really unfortunate part of this is that the message is a good one and has an opportunity to use the national news to support environmental protections in a way that removes them from the easily dismissed world of “tree huggers”.

    I hope the handling of this issue does not undermine the excellent work done on much of the Airport Futures effort nor should it undermine the credibility of the neighborhood residents who served on the PAG. If it does, we will have lost a great deal in the urgent and ongoing effort to rebuild public trust.



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