The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has approved the final environmental study for a proposed $32 million jet hangar project at Camarillo Airport, clearing the way for the venture to be built despite concerns by the city of Camarillo.
"We're very pleased," Nick Martino, vice president of operations for Westlake Village-based RKR Inc., the CloudNine project's developer, said Monday. "The next step is for us to continue working with the city and the county and build it."
Groundbreaking for the project near Las Posas Road and Ventura Boulevard could come as early as August, he said.
The $32 million jet hangar venture calls for the development of about seven acres of open land on the northeast quadrant of the airport with four private commercial luxury hangars and offices, under a lease with the county, according to a report from Ventura County Department of Airports Director Kip Turner.
Camarillo officials and some residents are concerned that the project could lead to violations of a 1976 agreement between the city and the county that limits the weight of aircraft using the airport to 115,000 pounds.
According to the project's environmental study, the planned aircraft ramp can accommodate a Boeing Business Jet 737-800, which can weigh more than 170,000 pounds, then-Camarillo City Manager Dave Norman said in a staff report earlier this year.
But Ronald Rasak, RKR's CEO, said in a letter to Turner that the developer "has no intention now or in the future to allow Boeing 737 aircraft to operate from the CloudNine location."
Martino said Boeing 737s are simply too big to fit in the project's hangars.
Turner says Boeing business jets may currently operate at the airport provided they comply with the 115,000-pound weight limit.
The Board of Supervisors approved the final environmental study last week on a 3-1 vote with Supervisor Linda Parks dissenting.
The study concludes "it has been determined that this proposed project may have a significant effect on the environment," including air quality and biological resources. "However, mitigation measures are available which would reduce the impacts to less-than-significant levels."
Supervisor John Zaragoza said at the board's June 16 meeting that as a longtime board member of the Camarillo Airport Authority, he remembers Camarillo City Council members also sitting on the authority's board "who really loved the project.
"They said it was really going to be great for Camarillo," he said. " ... I believe we should approve this project."
Parks, concurring with members of the current Camarillo City Council, expressed concerns that the project could accommodate Boeing Business Jet 737-800s.
"The concern is primarily noise," she said.
Parks asked for RKR to formalize its voluntary promise not to allow 737s to be part of the project.
"I think we should have more than a handshake agreement," she said. "It should be part of the conditions. Because that will alleviate the concerns of the city of Camarillo." But County Counsel Leroy Smith said he didn't think that would be appropriate.
"It's totally inconsistent with the idea that it's voluntary (if you) ask a developer to ... agree to something under threat that you're going to deny the environmental review" if the developer doesn't, he said.
In a June 10 memo to the board, Camarillo Interim City Manager Carmen Nichols asked the board to add language to the environmental study stating that the project must comply with the restrictions of the 1976 agreement, a request Parks supported.
Camarillo City Attorney Brian Pierik told the board last week that the 1976 agreement, designed to preserve the city's quality of life, is "still valid. It has not been amended. It has not been rescinded. And it still has legally enforceable obligations."
The board, however, did not add the language.
In a memo to the board, Turner said the Department of Airports does not support the city's request because it would appear to violate "the Airport Noise Control Act of 1990, its implementing regulations, FAA grant assurances, and the Camarillo Airport's deed restrictions."
That, in turn, would threaten the county's eligibility for federal funding under the Airport Improvement Program, Turner's memo states.
Assistant County Counsel Tom Temple, meanwhile, said "imposing a restriction on a single tenant (RKR) at the airport "among many who operate with similar types of aircraft would constitute unjust discrimination."
Camarillo Mayor Tony Trembley said Monday that the "city's interest is in making sure that the county complies with the restrictions in the 1976 agreement."
He said the matter is now "under review by the city" but declined to elaborate.
Norman said in March said that the City Council could take "legal action it deems necessary to protect its citizens under terms of the 1976 agreement."
Norman has since retired.
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0323.