WARRENTON — The Port of Astoria is looking to change Warrenton city code to protect the space around the Astoria Regional Airport from potential development.
Airport Manager Gary Kobes recently laid out a proposal by a subcommittee of the Port’s Airport Advisory Committee to replace a section of the Warrenton code with a public use airport zone developed by the state Department of Aviation.
“Over time, one of the problems with airports is encroachment of developments around critical areas of the airport,” Kobes said. “The zone change part would deal with keeping at bay inappropriate uses like residential uses below the traffic pattern and around the approaches.”
He said the Port is also trying to establish a Department of Aviation-model safety and compatibility overlay zone to protect the six approaches to runways from obstacles such as trees that can force pilots to approach from a higher altitude.
“The intent is to get the aircraft as close to the runway as possible,” Kobes said, adding something as small as 30 feet can make a difference to an incoming aircraft.
Kobes said airport stakeholders have been in discussion on the issue for about a year. A subcommittee of the airport committee was formed to tackle the issue, including pilots from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army and Life Flight Network. The subcommittee members will soon bring the issue before the Warrenton City Commission and seek referral to staff. Kobes said the process could take up to six months.
The airport falls under a general industrial zone in Warrenton’s city code, which allows for airport support structures such as hangars, weather stations, fuel terminals and storage buildings. The code also allows for conditional uses such as runway extensions and relocations. The zone prohibits uses that interfere with electricity or lighting at the airport.
Kobes said the city’s zone has a lot of similarities with the Department of Aviation’s, but “basically, there’s no enabling language in there relative to the day-to-day operations of the airport.”
He said the safety zone is also meant to avoid things like trees growing around runways and lights shining into the airport, which can affect military pilots using night vision.
Warrenton Planning Director Skip Urling said he’s not prepared to comment on the Port’s proposal. According to Warrenton’s municipal code, legislative text amendments require “city decision-makers to consider applicable comprehensive plan policies or provisions.” The proposal would go through the Warrenton Planning Commission and a public hearing before the City Commission.