Oregon Department of Aviation to sell our valuable public airport?

On Jan. 8, we can help chart a wiser course.

After multiple closed-door, executive sessions, the Oregon Department of Aviation Board voted in October to sell a critical public asset—Pacific City’s state airport. Made without proper input from key stakeholders, this decision strains the public trust and stirs a sense of déjà vu.

Stake holder outreach was similarly deficient five years ago when the ODA considered closing the airport. After community members and municipal officials intervened, ODA Director Mitch Swecker issued a promise that public input would play a vital role in future airport management decisions.

That wasn’t the case with October’s pivotal ODA decision. Those left out of the conversation include: emergency and government officials, business operators, air commuters and other pilots who frequent the airport, and nearby homeowners.

As a local property owner and Oregon Pilots Association member, I was pleased to learn that state and local leaders have stepped up to host a town hall event about the proposed airport sale. Sponsored by Sen. Arnie Roblan, Rep. David Gomberg and the Tillamook County Commissioners, the public meeting is set for 5-7 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Kiawanda Community Center, 34600 Cape Kiwanda Drive.

This town hall offers an opportunity for ODA to better deliver on its promise—to offer stakeholders a voice and allow us to collaborate on solutions. We also deserve an explanation of how and why the ODA’s decision was made and the potential impacts of selling such a valuable public asset.

Indeed, along with our dory boats and recreational offerings, our airport contributes to an active economy. Within five minutes of landing, fly-in visitors can be found patronizing shops and restaurants. Our airport also provides access to valuable 24/7 emergency services; and, in addition to serving Life Flight, it offers a training area for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Back in 1951-52, 10 area families so strongly believed that a public airport would benefit our community, they each sold their lands for a mere $1 expressly to create that airport. In fact, a deed reversionary clause requires that land ownership revert to those families if the property is no longer used for that express purpose. How would these original benefactors feel, knowing their land could be sold to a private investor?

Citizen engagement is central to our Oregon values and expectations. Decision-makers need meaningful input to make good decisions. Please consider participating in the Jan. 8 town hall to help ODA plot a wiser course for our public airport.

Robyn Holdman