Tacoma Narrows Airport Negotiations
The City of Tacoma owns and operates a municipal airport on the Gig Harbor Peninsula, an unincorporated area of Pierce County. For years, Tacoma and Pierce County were locked in a dispute over which jurisdiction could permit and approve expansion of the airport and improvements to the facilities. Nearby residents and the City of Gig Harbor were concerned about possible expansion of the airport and an increase in airplane traffic. References in state law gave contradictory guidance as to whether the city or county should have authority. The two jurisdictions were engaged in legal action to resolve the long-standing dispute.
The City of Tacoma and Pierce County decided to postpone further legal action and attempt to find a mediated solution. Cedar River Group was hired to facilitate a solution that all parties could support. The city and county appointed the 10-member Tacoma Narrows Airport Advisory Committee. Cedar River Group facilitated four months of work by the team.
A solution was crafted that explicitly confirmed that the City of Tacoma had no plans for future expansion of the airport, and allowed the city to proceed with improvements to existing facilities. It defined the type of nonaviation uses that could be allowed on the airport property. The city became the permitting authority for agreed improvements, using some of the county’s regulatory standards, such as the Critical Areas Ordinance, buffering requirements, assessment of cumulative off-site environmental impacts, and state stormwater manual. The solution was unanimously approved by the city and county councils, and was hailed in the local press as a breakthrough agreement.