Edina requests a seat at the airport’s table

The Edina City Council is requesting the Metropolitan Airports Commission create a seat on the Noise Oversight Committee specifically for an Edina representative.

City staff is also working on how to best create an advisory committee to keep watch on the MAC’s activities.

The MAC approved on Monday, Nov. 19, to support the Federal Aviation Administration’s implementation of a technology called RNAV that would consolidate plane takeoffs into a few flight paths. However, the two tracts over Edina weren’t included, after a large outpouring of anger from city staff and residents. The approval delayed the implementation until 2014.

Mayor Jim Hovland reiterated to the council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, his belief that the FAA’s reasons of safety and efficiency “fell flat.”

City Manager Scott Neal told the city council that it’s a reprieve for about 16 months and not a done deal. Hovland said he hopes the city will take the 16 months to ready itself before the FAA turns its sights to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport again.

An advisory committee to the city council on airport business would work on “what we need to know and what we need to do” about RNAV, Hovland said.

Neal acknowledged Edina hasn’t been well connected to the MAC in communication and he said he believes the MAC members regret not engaging the city earlier in the process.

“I think a fair amount of the, if not most of the angst and anger that was generated by the proposal could have been handled much better through them engaging us rather than not engaging us,” he said. “We’re going to take the bull by the horns and engage them on this issue.”

The council approved requesting a seat on the Noise Oversight Committee. When proposing the request, Councilmember Ann Swenson said, “We were able to delay a decision and we don’t know how long that will last for, based on what the FAA will request coming back.”

After thanking staff and residents for helping in delaying the decision, Swenson said, “But we just can’t be blindsided like that again.”

Edina Assistant Planner Kris Aaker has also been assigned to track MAC activities so the city can be aware of its activities, Neal said.

Several MAC members suggested to Edina staff that the city have an airport advisory committee.

Neal, who has experience with a similar advisory committee in Eden Prairie, said staff would review how other cities handle airport issues and give the council a recommendation based on that review. The committee would likely work with the MAC, the Noise Oversight Committee and the pilots’ association.

Neal said the committee may fall under the Edina Transportation Committee’s purview. However, Councilmember Joni Bennett said the focus of the ETC is community-based transportation. She pointed out that the advisory committee members would need very technical and specialized knowledge. She said it was clear to her through the correspondence the council received leading up to the MAC vote that the city already has a talent pool of retired pilots or administration who could sit on an airport committee.