After nearly two years of closed-door negotiations, Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry announced Thursday that the strict curfews governing John Wayne Airport's operations could remain in place through 2035 if a proposed airport settlement agreement extension is approved.
But limits on the number of passengers and flights that can pass through the airport would grow starting in 2021.
"This is a balanced approach that will follow the law and maintain the protection of our community," Curry said at a press conference in the Newport Beach Police Department auditorium. "Growth, after all, is part of life at the airport."
The current agreement, which resulted from a 1985 legal settlement aimed at curbing the airport's impacts on the surrounding community, is set to expire in 2015.
The city had been waiting for feedback from the Federal Aviation Administration before announcing the proposed new terms, which must toe a fine line between allowing JWA room to grow and hanging on to some of the nation's strictest airport noise and traffic restrictions.
Orange County was able to grandfather in its airport regulations, despite some conflicting with the federal 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act, meaning that any new settlement terms cannot impose more stringent limits than already exist.
According to the proposal, the airport's traffic limits, which currently cap annual passengers at 10.8 million, would stay at that level through 2020.
In 2021, that number would be bumped up to 11.8, effective through 2025.
Then, in 2026, that cap would be subject to another increase, based on whether the airport's actual traffic hits a "trigger" level of 11.21 million annual passengers in any year from 2021 to 2025.
If traffic does hit that level, the passenger cap would increase to 12.5 million annually between 2026 and 2030. If not, the cap would increase to 12.2 million annual passengers.
And under the proposal, the number of loud, commercial Class A planes allowed to take off on average each day would stay at 89 — 85 passenger and four cargo flights — through 2020. Those numbers would jump to 99 total in 2021: 95 Class A passenger departures and still just four cargo flights.
JWA's noise-based curfews — which ban commercial departures before 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, before 8 a.m. Sundays and after 10 p.m. daily and arrivals after 11 p.m. daily, except in emergencies — are regulated by a county law.
The county agreed not to touch that ordinance through at least 2020 in prior negotiations and, if approved, the new deal would extend that commitment for another 15 years.
For the city, negotiating a long-term curfew extension would be a boon.
"The extension of the curfew eliminates a major threat to the quality of life not only for Newport Beach but also for corridor cities impacted by airport operations," said City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who chairs Newport's Citizens Aviation Committee, and was one of three council members who helped with negotiations.