EVERETT, Wash. -- The Snohomish County Council voted to approve a two-gate passenger terminal at Paine Field on Monday afternoon. It will be leased to New York-based Propeller Airports.
Propeller is proposing to build and operate the terminal. If approved, the company would have three years to design the facility and perform an environmental study. A 30-year lease would then be an option.
The terminal could have the capacity to accommodate up to 23 flights per day, but Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, tells KING 5 that he initially expects less than 10 flights per day.
Already, Paine Field handles up to 300 flights per day, including large jetliners manufactured and tested by the Boeing Company, which shares the runway.
"Paine Field would provide additional options and generate new economic activity in the region," said Smith.
In the 11th hour of fragile negotiations between county leaders and Propeller, Alaska Airlines added a bit of drama to the mix. On Friday, the airline emailed Snohomish County Council members with a request to delay the vote on commercial flight as it "continues to assess market conditions for service to Paine Field."
"This continues to be our position," wrote Megan Ouellette, Managing Director for Government Relations at Alaska Airlines. "However, we are also taking a fresh look at PAE to determine whether the demand exists to serve this market, irrespective of whether any other carrier enters the market."
Alaska has long said it would be interested in flights out of Paine Field if another airline moved in as well. Some analysts say a move to Everett is an expensive and necessary evil for the airline engaged in a bitter turf war with Delta.
Opponents to commercial flight at Paine Field argue that added airplane noise and traffic will have a negative impact on the communities of Mukilteo, Everett and Edmonds. The group 'Save our Communities' said a two-gate terminal would only pave the way for more flights in the future, adding to stress on cities and putting more pressure on aerospace companies who serve as an economic foundation in Snohomish County.
"We think this is a bad fit for the communities here," said Michael Moore, President of Save our Communities, a vocal critic of commercial flight.
Moore said the group also wants county leaders to create a less open-ended lease agreement to protect taxpayers if the airport fails or is sold to another company.
"It's not a handful of flights per day that is the issue," Moore said. "It's what this could lead to."
Some companies in the region are supportive of the terminal as a way to stimulate growth with a closer alternative to Sea-Tac Airport for regional flights. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, a long time supporter of commercial flight, said the airport could be used as a recruiting tool.
"It's of one of the five top questions when we have companies looking at our community, 'Do you have regional air service,'" he said. "Often times I think we're on the losing side of those bids because we haven't had it."